We Can Give It… But Can We Take It?

Why is feedback so easy to give but so hard to receive? In my experience most of us have negative emotions associated with feedback. Receiving feedback, even from people we trust and with whom we have good relationships, can cause us to have a defensive, emotional response. Sometimes that response is voiced and sometimes we internalize it. Either way, we generally don’t like it and don’t take it well.

We tend to avoid feedback because we dislike feeling criticized. We often attach feedback to critical comments we’ve received in the past from others, and this can have a cumulative effect of discomfort and defensiveness.

However, there is a big upside to feedback. All progress and positive change starts when we learn and accept the truth. When we accept the truth, we become powerful beings. It all comes down to training ourselves to see feedback as a positive nudge to become a better version of ourselves. It helps us to see how we are actually perceived versus how we had wished to be perceived or how we think we are perceived.

Think back to the last few times someone gave you feedback whether it was your significant other, a friend, an employee or teammate, or a boss. Think back about your initial reaction.  If you discover that you do, in fact, resist feedback and that you want to re-evaluate your reaction to leverage the gifts embedded in that feedback, then consider these ideas:

  • Acknowledge your feelings. The first step to overcoming or changing a reaction is to acknowledge it. Once your brain identifies a problem, it immediately starts working to solve it. So, if this is something you are struggling with, we challenge you to become more self-aware this week and to let your brain get to work on the challenge.
  • Ask questions about the feedback, if you can. Deepen your understanding of it, and ask for suggestions about how you could gain a better result.
  • Detach the feedback and the behavior it describes or evaluates from you as a person. In other words, most of us never set out to get a negative result, hurt someone’s feelings, or make mistakes. Give yourself some credit and some grace and try to be as objective and curious as you can about the things you could change to get a better result.
  • Practice gratitude for the potential and likely embedded gifts hidden within the feedback.

Try it out and see what your brain can solve. See how useful feedback can be when you remain open, neutral, and grateful. The power from all the feedback you have been afraid to hear is waiting for you to catch up with the best version of you.

“Taking constructive criticism from others is required to get to the next level.”

~ Wendy Starland


  1. Katherine, thank you for this.

    Reading the reviews after my last webinar, there were two that stood out, and they weren’t the positive reviews! One said, “While this is good information and very thorough, this will screening will not get done in our office. We have less than an hour for our hygiene appointments.”
    My first thought was, well you just need to do it and also have a conversation with the dentists about adequate time for a hygiene appointment. That’s the first thought reaction. Then I took myself back to the reality of clinical dental hygiene and remembered where I once was with this screening. And, if one person voiced this, how many others are thinking it but not voicing it, and how can I address this topic better in my courses? As we know, time is gold in dentistry.

    There was one negative comment about me as a presenter, and it hurt. It hurt, however, I knew it was the truth. I was not top of game in this presentation, I knew it when I was giving it. Then to sit and listen to the recording of it… it was painful. I learned from it.

    1. I have gotten these same kind of responses at my speeches and they are painful to read. I try to be open (as you have been) to the suggestions, critiques, or even complaints and also try to keep them in perspective as to the percentages. For example, if I get one in a hundred that is negative… I do seriously consider the response but understand that is the opinion of 1% of my audience. If however, its closer to 20 out of hundred, then I know for sure that if 20% share the same kind of frustration… there is definitely something here for me to pay serious attention to. Hope that helps. Sounds like you handled this feedback perfectly.

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