Dealing With Feedback

And how you can avoid taking mental shortcuts when judging praise or criticism.


In our modern culture, there’s a strong belief in the power of feedback — both in our private and our work lives. We receive feedback all the time, at home, at work, in our sports club. Direct and indirect, positive and negative.

The problem is, many of us were never taught how to deal with feedback in the first place.

Whenever we receive it, our mind tends to react in one of two ways: Either we immediately accept it as the truth and start pondering about what we did right or wrong, or we outright object it because we feel it’s not correct or accurate enough.

Especially with personal feedback, reacting truly rational is hard. The dilemma is that we tend to forget the most important step that should come first: understand the context.

The context of feedback is complex, it’s dependent on many factors: who it comes from, their feelings, their motives, their current mood, their potential hidden agenda and so on and so on. It’s also dependent on the feedback giver’s relationship to the receiver.
Is he/she a close friend who can actually judge us or somebody that doesn’t know us well enough to have a comprehensive picture? Is it someone that’s trying to help us achieve something or is it someone who could even be considered competition? Does the person actually have knowledge or experience in the field, or is their position merely based on gut feeling?

Being praised or criticized gives us a chance to grow, but it can also misguide us. It’s as powerful as it is dangerous.

The best feedback comes delivered with context, the worst hides its true motives.

All feedback is subjective. If we ignore this, we either risk drawing the wrong conclusions or only getting a fraction of the feedback’s value.
Once you understand the context, you can deconstruct the message and enrich it with your perspective. Then, and only then should you draw conclusions.

The next time you receive feedback, don’t take a mental shortcut. Understand the context and reflect on it with your own opinions. You’ll be surprised how much benefit you can derive from this simple process.

I’ve currently challenged myself to write every day. This post is part of that series. Thank you for reading.

Entrepreneur building a new stealth startup by day. Aspiring writer and curious thinker by night.

Entrepreneur building a new stealth startup by day. Aspiring writer and curious thinker by night.