Fruitful Feedback: The Art of Savoring & Making the Most of Critiques

If you’re anything like me, the word ‘feedback’ might make you break out in a cold sweat. Or perhaps it conjures up visions of sitting down with your boss, holding your breath, and bracing yourself for the dreaded criticism.

But what if we change the narrative around feedback? What if, instead of seeing it as something to fear, we view it as a refreshing opportunity to grow?

Imagine you’re at a party, and someone offers you a drink. Do you decline because you’re unsure whether you’ll like it? Nope. You graciously accept it, take a sip, and assess whether it tickles your taste buds. And if it doesn’t, you don’t throw it in the giver’s face. You put it down or continue sipping cautiously, considering any redeeming qualities it might have.

Let’s use this metaphor to approach feedback.

Throughout your career, you’ll encounter a smorgasbord of input on your behavior, work output, skills, and so on. Some of it will hit the spot, while others may be hard to swallow. You’ll get feedback from colleagues, supervisors, and mentors, and some of it might reveal more about their perspective than your abilities. But embracing feedback is crucial for your professional growth.

There are two key benefits to opening yourself up to feedback:

  1. You’ll hone your skills and evolve as a professional, continuously improving and adapting to the ever-changing landscape of your field.
  2. You’ll earn a reputation as someone who values growth and embraces new perspectives, making you a more adaptable and versatile team player.

So how do you go from fearing criticism to embracing it?

Say ‘Thank You’

Even if the feedback feels like a bitter pill to swallow, maybe start with a ‘thank you.’ It shows that you’re professional and open to hearing other perspectives. It also puts you in the right frame of mind to process the feedback constructively.

Take a Sip

Once you’ve received the feedback, take a moment to let it sink in. Don’t react impulsively or defensively. Sip it like that unfamiliar drink, explore its flavors, and think about its implications.

Find the Redeeming Features

Even if the feedback isn’t to your liking, there might be something valuable in there. Look for the underlying themes, patterns, or nuggets of wisdom that you can apply to your work.

Move Beyond Bitterness

If the feedback feels off or leaves a bad taste in your mouth, remember it’s just one opinion. Don’t let it ruin your day or erode your confidence. It’s just one moment in your entire career.

Reflect and Learn

Feedback is a learning opportunity. Once you’ve processed it, consider how you can use it to improve your skills, performance, or relationships. And if you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or further insight.

Savor the Good Stuff

Sometimes, feedback can be delightful. When you receive praise or recognition, relish it! Remember these moments, and let them motivate and energize you.

In my training on career paths for scientists, I emphasize the importance of being open to feedback as one of the top attributes for success in any path. While feedback may not always be pleasant, it’s a crucial element for growth and improvement. So, let’s embrace it with an open mind, extract the valuable insights it provides, and use it to elevate our professional journey. After all, every sip of feedback, whether bitter or sweet, provides an opportunity to reflect, savor, and learn.

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