Tips to Receive Constructive Feedback & Channel it Into Positive Change

Getting feedback is never easy, especially in a professional context. But sooner or later, you’ll receive feedback based on your work performance or behavior and need to take it to heart if you hope to thrive in your current position.

Although it can be tough to swallow criticism, there are ways to receive constructive feedback and channel it into positive change for your future career. 

Remember That It’s Not About “You”

The first major thing you can do to receive constructive feedback is to not make it personal. Specifically, try to remember that constructive feedback isn’t about “you” in particular. Rather, it’s about your behavior, performance, or your results.

A good boss or superior won’t provide constructive feedback that criticizes you as a person. They might criticize the way you do things, but that’s different from insulting you as an individual.

Bottom line: remember that constructive feedback isn’t meant to make you feel bad. It’s meant to help you do better in the future. If you can avoid taking things personally, you’ll be well equipped to channel feedback into positive change.

Take Deep Breaths

Even if you have an open mind, it can be tough to receive constructive feedback calmly. “It might help to take a few deep breaths before, during, and after feedback or a disciplinary meeting,” says Ryan Rottman, Co-Founder and CEO of OSDB Sports.

Deep breaths calm the mind and the body and can help arrest some of the instinctual reactions most of us feel when we receive critique. Deep breaths also give your mind space to step back and look at the situation objectively rather than getting overly emotional.

Recall the Benefits of Feedback

As you receive feedback, try to remember the benefits of applicable and professional constructive feedback. When you receive good feedback, you:

  • Can tailor your workplace performance or efforts to better suit company needs
  • Can avoid making mistakes in the future
  • Can make yourself a better employee for your company, potentially qualifying you for future promotions

Essentially, think of feedback as a crucible through which you can forge yourself into a more accomplished, high-quality professional.

“If you take feedback to heart and channel it constructively, you’ll become even better at your job than before,” says Jae Pak, Founder at Jae Pak MD Medical. “That can only benefit you professionally in the long-term.”

Ask Questions for Clarification

One of the best ways to stop yourself from overthinking feedback and channel it positively is to ask clarifying questions.

Clarifying questions:

  • Allow you to better understand the feedback. Depending on who’s getting the feedback, this might be more important than you think!
  • Let you ask how you can best improve yourself or correct your mistakes

More importantly, clarifying questions help you look at the situation objectively.

Lina Miranda, VP of Marketing at AdQuick says, “Clarifying questions enable you to see feedback for what it is: a response tool meant to help you, not to put you down or make you feel bad. If you come out of the experience with more information, it’s always a win.”

Thank the Person Who Gave You Feedback

You can hijack your automatic emotional system by thanking the person who gives you feedback in a moment. Our brains are wired to feel gratitude to people we thank, and if you feel like you are ungrateful or bitter after feedback, thank the person who just critiqued you.

They might be surprised and think more highly of you – this can be really advantageous if your boss is the one giving you the feedback. But even more critically, you’ll find that your emotions are a little more positive toward the whole experience afterward.

Review What the Feedback Was Later

In the moment, it can be tough to really grasp constructive feedback and see it for what it is. Therefore, it might be wise to let yourself calm down for a little bit and review the constructive feedback in the evening following.

When you review what feedback was said later, you can look at it with a clear mind, determine whether it was legitimate, and figure out which parts of the feedback were most important for your future work performance.

“But don’t forget that not all constructive feedback is 100% perfect,” says Karim Hachem, VP of eCommerce at Maxine of Hollywood. “By reviewing what was said later, you can dismiss parts of the feedback that aren’t applicable to you.”

Consider How to Improve Your Behavior/Performance

Receiving constructive feedback is just one part of the process. Now you need to figure out how you can use it to improve your performance or behavior.

For instance, did your boss critique the fact that you are always a few minutes late for work? If that’s honest and accurate feedback, you can take that information and decide to:

  • Leave a few minutes early in the morning compared to how late you normally leave
  • Go to bed at the same time each night so you don’t wake up after your alarm goes off
  • Take a faster route to work
  • Or something else

Visualize How Improvements Will Help Your Career

Still having trouble channeling constructive feedback into positive professional changes? You might benefit from visualizing or imagining how changes from that critique will lead to professional growth later down the road.

Say that you enter a particularly stressful meeting with your boss. They provide feedback that your workplace performance is suffering because of a few concrete reasons.

Instead of feeling down, focus on how improving those few aspects could lead to you getting a promotion in the future or getting a raise. In other words, focus on the good of constructive feedback and use that as inspiration to channel the feedback into positive change.

Conclusion

Overall, it’s up to you to determine how you react to constructive feedback from a superior, peer, or someone else. Feedback is a vital process of growing personally and professionally. Knowing how to channel constructive feedback into a positive change is a vital life skill that will serve you well in the years to come.

Adam Hansen