Make getting feedback less stressful!

We are often given advice about to provide effective feedback to people, but are not necessarily taught how to deal with the other half of the equation – how to receive feedback more effectively.


“As Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone wrote in “Find the Coaching in Criticism” in the January-February 2014 issue of HBR, “Even when you know that [feedback is] essential to your development and you trust that the person delivering it wants you to succeed, it can activate psychological triggers. You might feel misjudged, ill-used, and sometimes threatened to your very core.” And this is true even in feedback-friendly organizations, and it’s even worse in environments where feedback is infrequent and surprising.”

‘Six of the scariest words in the English language are : ‘Can I give you some feedback?’ (Ed Batista)

In his August 2014, HBR post, Ed Batista shares some suggestions for how to be a better receiver of feedback. Click here to access the HBR post called ‘Make getting feedback less stressful’.


Here are some of our suggestions, and some of those suggested by Ed to help you cope better with feedback:

a) Recognise the feeling you are having to receiving feedback and Reframe the experience

  • “Your perception that feedback is threatening is rooted in clearly understood neurological and psychological dynamics. The feeling of being threatened doesn’t automatically imply that you are facing a literal threat.
  • The person providing you with feedback isn’t necessarily assuming a position of higher status or lording their status over you. In most cases their intentions are simply to help you improve—even if they’re doing so ineffectively.
  • Even if you feel obligated to participate in the conversation, you are making the choice to respond to that pressure, and you do have some agency.
  • If you feel as if the feedback is unfair, keep in mind that you may be misunderstanding the feedback giver’s motives. And they may have made some wrong assumptions about you as well. If this is the case, try stating your true intentions and point out how they differ from what the feedback giver has assumed.
  • Note that reframing has its limits, and your capacity for feedback is finite. At certain points you’ll be unable to fully comprehend the other person’s comments, or you’ll become distracted by your own inner monologue, or you’ll simply feel overwhelmed or flooded with various emotions. These are signs that you’ve absorbed all the feedback that you can at the moment. When this happens you should pause the conversation so that you can make sense of what you’ve heard so far, and agree to continue only after you’ve had an opportunity to reflect.” (E Batista)

b) Build the relationship

  • “Over time, you can develop closer relationships and build trust with the people who are likely to give you feedback. This will help you feel more comfortable.” (E Batista)
  • Kouzes and Posner suggest forming a ‘trusted circle’ of “loving critics.” “These are people who care about you and want you to do well — and because they care about your wellbeing, they are willing to give you the honest feedback you need to become the best leader you can be.”

Click here to see our blog link to Kouzes and Posner’s post on seeking feedback from the ‘trusted circle’

c) Work on building a feedback rich culture

  • “Find ways to give and receive feedback more frequently so that it becomes a normal aspect of organizational life, making it OK to both postpone feedback conversations until a better time, and ensuring that senior leaders walk the talk by offering and inviting direct feedback on a regular basis.” (E Batista)
  • Also consider the value of a feedforward approach – ask what do you think I could / should keep doing, start doing, stop doing? (Marshall Goldsmith)


Click here to see a previous blog on this topic.

Click here to see our blog post about the power of feedback from peers

Click here for some TIPS on how to provide effective feedback

Click here to see blog on the feedforward technique



Click here to access our practical DiA Tips and hints guide – receiving feedback – improving how you respond.