We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve. ~Bill Gates

About two years ago, I received the best advice I’ve ever heard about accepting feedback.

I was facilitating a Crucial Conversations class and we were giving examples of what makes a conversation crucial.  Several of the participants had given examples of receiving feedback from peers or supervisors.  In each case, the feedback had been critical, and didn’t seem to have been delivered well.  They began reliving their experiences and were starting to get upset.

As I was trying to get the class back on track, a young lady raised her hand.

When I called on her she said, “I don’t know why everyone is getting upset. My grandmother used to tell me that feedback is exactly like a gift.”

I asked her to tell us more.

She explained that whenever she or one of her siblings were having problems with feedback or criticism, her grandmother would remind them that all feedback is a gift. And, just like on their favorite holiday, they would get all kinds of gifts.

“She would say that some will be exactly what you are hoping to get.  You will know exactly how it will be helpful and how to use it.  Some will be really interesting, but you won’t know how you’ll use it.  You’ll put it on a shelf in the hope of using it later.  Some you’ll unwrap and just know this gift isn’t right for you.

“However, no matter which kind of gift you get, you still need to smile and thank them.  They took the time to think of you, and bring you something special.  The least you can do is repay that kindness with a smile and a kind word.”

The class sat in stunned silence.

After a full minute, one of the other participants shook his head and said, “Your grandmother was one smart lady.”

When someone gives you feedback, before you say anything remind yourself they are giving you a gift.   They are giving you the opportunity to improve yourself and your performance.  Regardless of whether you find their thoughts immediately useful or feel they missed the mark, thank them and tell them you will use their feedback to improve what you are doing.  Not only will you find that people are much more comfortable offering their help, but you won’t get as upset–even if the feedback is critical.


Scott’s new book, Swimming In Quicksand, is a parable about taking control of your career that contains proven strategies anyone can use to dog-paddle their way to success.  It is available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle format.

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