Request a demo
Back to Blog

Handle feedback like a boss and make it work for you

March 23, 2021 - 14 min read

receiving feedback - two colleagues discuss performance

Jump to section

Why is it important to receive feedback the right way?

What good may come from constructive feedback?

7 steps to receiving feedback

How to handle difficult situations when receiving feedback

Wrapping up

Why is it important to receive feedback well?

Why is it important to receive feedback and criticism the right way? 

Elbert Hubbard said, “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” 

Receiving negative feedback is never easy or pleasant. However, people who are closed to feedback are missing exceptional opportunities to grow, evolve, and get closer to reach their full potential. 

Human beings are constantly perfectible, although, to evolve, it is essential to develop self-awareness. Self-awareness is not only focusing on positive traits and competencies. Developing self-awareness is also about being ready to face personal weaknesses and limits. 

Receiving feedback is the most effective way to gain awareness of one’s skills, including strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots.

What happens when you don’t receive feedback?

If nobody cares to share feedback with you, it will be much harder to grow, evolve, change, or get yourself to the next level. 

With no feedback, you would keep doing the same things the same way. That means you would repeat the same mistakes again and again, with little to no room for improvement. 

In other words, your evolution will be limited if you don’t receive feedback.

What happens if you receive non-constructive feedback?

Providing constructive feedback is an art, and receiving criticism is also an art that can be mastered. 

When feedback is not constructive, or if the shared opinion seems unfair or unproven, there is a risk for a difficult conversation or even a threat of damage to a relationship. 

When receiving non-constructive feedback, the tendency is often to develop resistance and anger, as one often feels hurt or judged.

What happens with constructive feedback received the right way?

Developing your self-awareness and getting ready to face the good, the bad, and the ugly is the fastest path towards personal and professional growth and evolution. 

Gracefully receiving constructive feedback is the best way to bring your attention to your blind spots and define the steps you must take to overcome any challenge you may face. 

By getting an opportunity to understand how others perceive your work, performance, and behavior, you are enabling your development toward a better version of yourself.


Stay up to date with new resources and insights.


What good may come from constructive feedback?

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things.”

 Winston S. Churchill 


When feedback is aimed to assist you and comes with actionable tips or advice, it’s in your best interest to pause and reflect on how to welcome this constructive criticism. 

We could put together a long list of all the advantages of constructive feedback; let’s focus on five key points.

1. Learning and growth opportunity

We can all look back at situations that we are not proud of. 

We’ve all thought one day, “I wish I could have behaved differently.” 

Constructive feedback is an excellent tool to learn, grow, and develop skills and competencies. Through a better understanding of dysfunctions and imperfections, change becomes possible.

2. Accountability development

When you are ready to face feedback and work on your limitations, you are together raising your accountability for own your successes, as well as your errors. 

Those excellent traits are making you authentic and trustworthy for those who are working with you. Thus, you are naturally developing your accountability.

3. Strengthened relationships with the feedback provider

Remember that a person providing you with constructive feedback is a person who cares about you and your evolution. 

Receiving the feedback the right way and implementing actions to work on shared improvement area(s) will show dedication and motivation. It will reinforce the relationship. 

If you don’t act on shared feedback, people may interpret that as a lack of motivation and may be reluctant to further engage with you on meaningful projects.

4. Feedback elevates engagement

As motivation and performance are closely linked, constructive feedback enhances both engagement and motivation. 

Managers who conduct open, evidence-based, forward-looking discussions tend to improve employee interest in feedback discussions and avoid negative employee reactions. 

Feedback then becomes a tool for career development. When feedback is well shared, it contributes to elevate engagement and helps cultivate a trustworthy workplace. 

By aligning feedback with career goals, you will be more likely to accept criticism and initiate changes.

5. Reflects well on personal branding

Being coachable, humble, and ready to work on personal and professional limitations is great for personal branding. 

Knowing how to hear criticism to implement changes requires courage and demonstrates a great character that leads to greater opportunities. 

People with emotional outbursts and no self-control are not building a great personal brand. In the workplace, leaders are looking for collaborators who are motivated, eager to learn, and want to grow with the business.

7 steps to receiving feedback

1. Ask for feedback

There is no need to wait for feedback. It should not always be someone else’s initiative. 

With a growth mindset, seeking feedback becomes a regular exercise that is not a threat to the ego, but a real opportunity to learn.

2. Be prepared for the good, the bad, and the ugly

Before a feedback session, prepare yourself by reflecting on your skills and competencies. 

Try to be as honest as possible and focus on the things you are doing well, the things you improved, and the remaining improvement areas. 

For those last ones, come with an action plan. This simple exercise will assist you in preparing for the feedback meeting and will reduce the surprise effect.

3. Adjust your mindset

Many people perceive feedback negatively. They believe if they have something to improve, then they may feel that they have failed in some way. 

Receiving feedback is an opportunity to take your game to the next level. Taking feedback with grace becomes easier when you change its meaning and assume best intentions as well.

4. Reduce limiting beliefs

When receiving criticism, it’s important to remove any type of bias or judgment about a situation or person to avoid rejecting feedback. 

Accepting constructive criticism without forming disdain for the person criticizing you is essential. Of course, this process is easier when the person criticizing you is properly doing so.

5. Set the tone

Are you open to feedback? What are you looking for? Is it guidance, advice, or an opportunity to confide? 

Feedback needs to be timely. When showing people rough drafts of your work, it might be good to provide them with a disclaimer to show that you are aware of some of the apparent alterations that still need to be completed.

6. Assist others in being more constructive

Not everyone is mastering the art of sharing constructive feedback. 

If you are facing such a manager or collaborator, you can assist them in sharing better criticism. 

As you are working closely with those people, you are facing two options: 

  1. Keep getting annoyed or frustrated by unconstructive criticism 
  2. Starting to seek more profitable opinions 

You can do so by asking more questions and developing a solution-quest mindset in meetings.

7. Do not ruminate

It is pretty easy to ruminate after a feedback session. 

Some initial thoughts could tempt you to think that it’s unfair, unjustified, or simply wrong. 

Once the strong emotion is gone, take the time to reflect and accept the constructive feedback. After a while, if something is still playing in your mind and bothering you, request another meeting to clarify the improvement areas and structure the action plan.

 How to handle difficult situations when receiving feedback

Various difficult situations may arise when sharing and receiving feedback. 

The best way to address those challenging situations is to adopt an open mind and to focus on key development points. 

Let’s look closely at three typical situations and some ways to overcome those challenges on the spot.

Situation 1: The person sharing the feedback is not legit

When the person who is sharing the feedback has close to no credit for you, it becomes challenging to welcome and accept their feedback. 

Rather than being defensive, an alternative would be to consider the feedback as if it was coming from someone else — someone you do respect. 

This perspective is allowing you to focus on the shared feedback, rather than focusing on the messenger. 

Situation 2: The chosen place and time are wrong

The chosen place and time can be wrong for a few reasons: a lack of privacy, not having enough time to prepare, or not having enough time between the situation and the feedback discussion. 

If you feel like you are not in the best mindset to welcome feedback the right way, your best option is to try to postpone the discussion. 

If the discussion can’t be deferred: 

  • Collect the feedback 
  • Do not answer 
  • Do not react 
  • Ask for a delay to respond. 

This additional time will allow you to reframe your thoughts and take some perspective that will help you better handle the message and take appropriate actions.

Situation 3: The emotion is high and the mind remains negative

When receiving criticism, it is common to feel a strong negative emotion, such as frustration, bitterness, defensiveness, or aggressiveness. 

Rather than trying to fight this emotion, welcome it and try to understand the meaning behind it. 

Before communicating, you will want to take a deep breath and clarify the point by asking questions. This technique will prevent you from becoming defensive and closed-minded, so you can continue the discussion. 

You may also want to excuse yourself for a couple of minutes to deal with the strong emotion prior to getting back to a constructive discussion.

Wrapping up

Receiving constructive feedback will become easier with time, as you welcome feedback and accept the related learned lessons. 

By engaging yourself in self-introspection, with the aim of developing your skills and competencies, you will open your mind to receiving criticism with grace.

Personalized development helps leaders and their teams thrive


Stay up to date with new resources and insights.


New call-to-action
Published March 23, 2021

Maud Vanhoutte

Communication Specialist

Read Next

Leadership & Management
9 min read | February 4, 2022

How managers get upward feedback from their team

Fostering a culture of feedback requires managers asking to receive feedback from their teams. Learn ways you can empower your team through feedback. Read More
Professional Development
10 min read | March 25, 2022

Are you receptive to feedback? Follow this step-by-step guide

Feedback doesn't have to be daunting. Learn how you can become more receptive to feedback with these 5 easy steps. Read More
Leadership & Management
12 min read | February 18, 2022

How to get feedback from your employees

When was the last time you asked your employees for feedback? Learn how to get your employees to give you more constructive feedback. Read More
Professional Development
20 min read | March 16, 2022

5 types of feedback that make a difference (and how to use them)

Find out how these 5 types of feedback are used — and how you can start using feedback to reach your full potential. Read More
Leadership & Management
11 min read | September 2, 2019

How to empower your team through feedback

Learning how to empower your team through feedback is crucial for every leader. No matter the makeup of your team, your employees want feedback. Read More
Professional Development
17 min read | May 5, 2022

Should you use the feedback sandwich? 7 pros and cons

There’s a heated debate about feedback sandwiches: do they actually work? Find out how you can give effective feedback today. Read More
Leadership & Management
9 min read | July 15, 2022

How to give feedback using this 4-step framework

Giving feedback can be challenging, especially when it's constructive feedback. Learn how to give feedback effectively to empower your team's success. Read More
Leadership & Management
8 min read | August 25, 2022

5 benefits of feedback — and why it matters

Feedback doesn't have to be scary. Learn about the benefits of feedback for your employees and your organization. Read More
Leadership & Management
12 min read | January 14, 2022

How to give constructive feedback as a manager

As a manager, it can be difficult to give feedback that'll drive performance. Find out how you can give effective constructive feedback with 5 easy steps. Read More

Stay connected with BetterUp

Get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research.