In Glade Holman’s article, “How to Accept Difficult Feedback”, his second point is “Listen, Listen, Listen.” He stresses the idea that you need to let feedback providers say what they want to say. Here are three points that can help you actually listen.
1. Don’t Think about How You Will Respond
Basically, you need to be an active listener. Most of us are familiar with this idea, which involves elements like paying attention and showing that you’re listening by restating or paraphrasing what they have said.
A key part of active listening is to not be thinking about how you are going to respond. Of course, you need to find a balance in a conversation, because in a typical conversation the other person will want to hear what you have to say as well. However, in a moment of feedback, that is a little different. It’s human nature to become defensive and argue. That is not going to do you any good. When somebody is giving you feedback, fight the urge to refute their comments and simply focus on showing that you hear them.
2. Be Careful about Disagreeing with Any Part of Their Feedback
As stated in the previous paragraph, in a feedback situation you don’t want to refute and disagree with their feedback. You can restate and clarify, but be careful about disagreeing with any part of their feedback. Even if you try to correct them about a seemingly ancillary part of their feedback, they will likely interpret your disagreement in one of two ways (or both).
- You disagree with the feedback in general.
- You are missing their main point and focusing on this ancillary concept.
For that reason, you are generally better served by just focusing on understanding the feedback giver and showing that you are listening. In an interview on the podcast, Simply Feedback, Glade Holman shares this piece of advice that will help you do this.
When someone’s giving you feedback and your instinct is to tell them, “You’re wrong,” or “You don’t understand,” before you say that I want you to say one phrase: “Tell me more.” If you don’t like “Tell me more,” then here’s a second phrase: “Say more about that.” Before you communicate agree/disagree, you’ve got to say, “Tell me more” or “Say more about that” three times.
Glade Holman, “3 Steps to Make Use of Any Feedback,” at 29:50
3. Demonstrate Strength by Choosing to Listen
We stress the importance of not trying to defend yourself. However, nobody wants to appear weak, nor does it help us to be weak. A great way to communicate confidence and assert yourself without objecting to what they are saying is by letting them know you are choosing to listen and understand their feedback. This can be done in a few ways, depending on the scenario.
- For almost any situation, respond by saying something like, “I appreciate your sharing this with me. I see what you’re saying. I need a little time to process it. Do you mind if I take some time and get back to you about my plans?” Even though you finish by asking if it is okay to take time, you demonstrate confidence by letting them know you appreciate what they have to say, and by requesting time.
- In cases, where somebody who is not your direct manager is upset with you or has informed you they want to give you some feedback, you can say something like, “I appreciate your sharing this with me. I see what you’re saying. When you mentioned you wanted to talk, I was guessing it wasn’t to tell me how great I am, but I thought it would be beneficial to hear what you were thinking—and it is. That does help me…” If you want to ask for more time you can. In this scenario, you’ve thanked them like in the previous scenario, but you’ve taken it a step further and let them know that you chose to give them your time.
These types of responses will help you demonstrate confidence and assert yourself while not disagreeing with the person.
To follow Glade’s advice to “listen, listen, listen,” you basically want to follow the principles of active listening. In a situation where you are being given feedback, as opposed to having a basic conversation, you will generally be best served by focusing on what they are saying rather than on how you will respond, and not disagreeing with any part of their feedback, even while demonstrating strength by choosing to listen. These steps will help the feedback giver feel heard and still respect you.