The 5 A’s to Accepting Feedback – Gracefully

It is hard to hear about yourself, your performance on a task, your delivery of an idea – you know what I am talking about. That constructive criticism that is part of your development. In other words… feedback.

Feedback is a part of life. It is a key component of your ability to grow, evolve and improve. But, that doesn’t mean it is always easy to hear. I have written articles, recorded videos (one is below), and taught classes on the topic. Still, I take a deep breath and exhale slowly when I prepare myself to receive it.

Building a habit around receiving feedback will not only make the experience easier but you are more likely to put that information to good use. Handling it with grace will reflect well on you and also encourage others to continue to give you that vital knowledge.

I call it the 5 A’s Approach…

1. Absorb. When receiving feedback, it is important to first take it in with a level head. Avoid closed body language, defensive speech, trying to explain yourself, or shooting back with criticism of your own. Just listen, maybe even take notes to keep you focused.

2.  Ask Questions. Show interest and probe into what they are saying. Dig deeper to increase your clarity with specifics and examples. You can even ask one of my favorite questions, “What do you need to see to know I have improved in this area?” Seek observable, measurable, and actionable ideas for improvement.

3. Acknowledge. Ensure you understood by summarizing and repeating back what they said. Go a step further by agreeing with something specific that they said. You don’t have to agree with everything, but agreeing with one piece of their feedback can make it easier for you to take, and builds rapport with the person giving the feedback.

4. Appreciate. Thank them for their candor, recognize they have given you an opportunity to grow, and then invite them to continue to give you feedback. Remember, delivering a tough message can be just as hard as receiving it.

5. Apply. Put their feedback into action. This is the key and culmination of their efforts and yours. Share with them the impact their words have had on you and how you implemented their ideas. See if they have further feedback, or if they have noticed and improved your performance.

Feedback is a wonderful gift, but it can be difficult to receive graciously. If you or somebody you know has trouble handling feedback well, know that you are not alone. Try putting these five and a half “A’s” into practice, or send them to a friend who needs to learn them too.

I am always open to feedback too; reply back with any information you want to share!

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