The #1 Way to Keep Receiving Feedback

To get feedback, you first need to ask for it. However, getting feedback and continually receiving feedback are different skills. The #1 way to keep receiving feedback is to simply listen, or as we say, “Receive the feedback graciously.” What does this look like?

Have you ever had somebody ask for your advice, but after you give them advice they blow it off? How does that make you feel? Do you feel like you wasted your time? Then, what if they do that to you again? How likely are you to want to help them again, or how likely are you to even suggest anybody else help them? You don’t want to waste your or anybody else’s time.


Listening is the #1 way to keep receiving feedback, because the feedback will stop if you don’t listen. Here are some examples to consider.

A Critique

Serious conversation between two business professionalsSharon says, “Hi, William, how are you?”

William responds, “Great! How are you?”

“I’m fine. William, can I share a couple of thoughts I had about your presentation yesterday?”

“Uh, sure.”

“Well, during the portion when you were talking about…” Sharon proceeds to share a concern about a mannerism she found distracting and ask for clarification on one point.”

William could respond with any of the following. Which do you think would best help Sharon want to give him feedback in the future?

  1. “Everybody has quirks. Would you like me to share one you’ve been exhibiting?”
  2. “Yeah, I’ve had a cold, and it makes me need to clear my throat a lot.”
  3. “I’ve had a cold and worried that it might be distracting. Do I tend to do that in other presentations, even when I don’t have a cold?”

Response A tells Sharon that William’s not receptive to her observation. Then he takes it a step further to point out her flaws instead. Response B may feel receptive, but it might just as easily feel dismissive. Response C acknowledges that her perception likely has some basis, and he was worried about it too. Then he demonstrates that he truly wants to understand her comment by asking for more of her perspective. This second step suggests that not only is he listening, but he is also likely open to working on the issue if needed.

A Compliment

Sharon says, “Hi, William. You did such a nice job on your presentation yesterday! I really enjoyed it.”

William responds, “Thanks, but I wasn’t very pleased with it how it went. I wish I would have remembered to talk about…”

In his response, William brushes right past the compliment and starts talking about what he didn’t like about the presentation. That sends the signal that he really wasn’t hearing Sharon, and frankly, he’s more focused on himself and his own thoughts than hers. Because he jumps right into complaining about his presentation, he’s also dismissing or at least diminishing her judgment. In a way, William is telling Sharon that her opinion is not correct.

Happy conversation between two business professionalsWhat if the exchange had been like this?
Sharon says to William, “You did such a nice job on your presentation! I really enjoyed it.”

William responds, “Thanks, that’s very kind of you to say. What stood out to you?”

In this scenario, regardless of how he felt about the presentation, William acknowledges and validates Sharon’s feedback. He asks a follow-up question as well, which keeps the focus on her, not him, and gives Sharon the opportunity to share something specific. The specificity can help William learn something new, even if he doesn’t agree with what she shares. He can decide if it’s useful and maybe even modify future presentations based on the information.

The Formula for Success

Notice how the formula is the same whether the feedback is a “compliment” or a “critique”. In both cases, the best approach is to first acknowledge that you heard the person, then instead of dismissing the question ask a follow-up, exploratory question. This gives you the opportunity to better understand the comment and how to best use it.

What is the #1 Way to Keep Receiving Feedback?

The #1 way to keep receiving feedback is to be open to it. You can decide whether you want to appear open to feedback or not. There may be situations where you don’t want someone to feel comfortable sharing their opinion. However, assuming you do care and want that useful information, show that you’re open. The simplest way is to acknowledge or restate what they said and then ask a sincere clarifying or exploratory question as follow-up. This is a great approach whether the feedback is a critique or a compliment.

Related article:
Six Guiding Principles for Receiving Feedback