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Don’t Take It Personally: Feedback Tips

Don’t take it personally: feedback tips

In the early years of my career I struggled with taking work related feedback personally. This was true for both positive and negative feedback. A shout out from one of the executives or an honorable mention for employee of the month would have me cheerfully skipping around the office feeling proud and validated for days. I was awesome.

In the rare instances that I received negative, or as I prefer to call it, constructive, feedback, I fell apart. I was an utter failure. My feelings were hurt. I became defensive. Days of depression and usually some tears followed.

Thankfully, as I’ve come to terms with what feedback is all about (learning, growth, striving for excellence) I’ve been able to accept it in all its forms with grace and use it for the power of good.

And then, a few weeks ago, a colleague made a comment during a meeting that sent me reeling. It was definitely feedback of the “constructive” variety. Even that is too mild of a description. The comment was inappropriate and ill timed. With just a few words from this person, I found myself right back to where I was years ago. Feeling less than, like my contributions were useless.

For days I agonized over the comments. Finally, a wise friend shared with me the same advice that I have given to others countless times “don’t take it personally.”

The truth is that not taking feedback personally is easier said than done for several reasons:

  • Giving helpful, constructive feedback takes a greater degree of effort, skills. The same is true for being receptive to the feedback that is given. These skills must be developed and honed.
  • There are lots of opportunities for feedback to go sideways. Constructive feedback requires the right intent; a specific, well-crafted message; appropriate timing and the right tactic.
  • Feedback that is provided for any reason other than to help the receiver grow or improve in some way is not feedback at all. It’s just unproductive criticism.

Here are some things that you can do to ensure that feedback is a constructive opportunity for growth and not to be taken personally.

Giving feedback

  • Start with the right intention. Feedback is about growth, learning and motivation for the recipient. Even constructive feedback about performance should come from a desire to see the recipient be successful.
  • Use the right tactic for the situation. According to Harvard Business Review, the tactics used in providing feedback back can make a significant difference in performance and motivation. Providing positive feedback to someone who is not bought into a project or to a new employee boosts their confidence and commitment. Constructive feedback is a great tool to help an already engaged team member push a bit harder to reach their goal.
  • Time and place. Constructive feedback should be a private conversation between two people at a mutually agreed upon time and place.
  • Recognize effort. Most people make genuine efforts to perform well. When an effort is made, it should be recognized. If the desired outcome is not achieved, feedback is a tool to help reach the desired results in the future.
  • Use empathy. A little empathy goes a long way. Ask yourself how you may be feeling if you were in the same position as the receiver.

Receiving feedback

  • Be open minded. Feedback is either praise for the work you’ve done or an opportunity to grow and improve the work that you will do in the future. Be receptive and open to ways you can accomplish this.
  • Ask questions, seek clarity. Approach the conversation with a curious mind. Ask questions about the feedback you are receiving so that you can put it into action. Obtain clarity on what actions you need to take and what the impact is.
  • Keep it in perspective. At its heart, feedback is a reflection of a single moment in your professional life. It is not a reflection of you as a whole.

Want to learn more on feedback strategies? Contact the experts at Pathfinder Strategies at or by phone at 888-529-0240.

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