Find the Coaching in Criticism

By Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone via http://hbr.org   Article

“… in many organizations, feedback doesn’t work. … companies try to address these problems by training leaders to give feedback more effectively and more often. … But improving the skills of the feedback giver won’t accomplish much if the receiver isn’t able to absorb what is said. It is the receiver who controls whether feedback is let in or kept out, who has to make sense of what he or she is hearing, and who decides whether or not to change. People need to stop treating feedback only as something that must be pushed and instead improve their ability to pull. …

A critical performance review, a well-intended suggestion, or an oblique comment that may or may not even be feedback (“Well, your presentation was certainly interesting”) can spark an emotional reaction, inject tension into the relationship, and bring communication to a halt. But there’s good news, too: The skills needed to receive feedback well are distinct and learnable. They include being able to identify and manage the emotions triggered by the feedback and extract value from criticism even when it’s poorly delivered. …

What makes receiving feedback so hard? The process strikes at the tension between two core human needs—the need to learn and grow, and the need to be accepted just the way you are. As a result, even a seemingly benign suggestion can leave you feeling angry, anxious, badly treated, or profoundly threatened. A hedge such as “Don’t take this personally” does nothing to soften the blow. …

Six Steps to Becoming a Better Receiver .…”

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