Receiving constructive feedback

This past week I received feedback on a project. The person giving the feedback was straightforward – “this isn’t really what we’re looking for” – and offered some thoughts on how I might shift my perspective. Then he welcomed me to contact him with my revisions so that we could talk further.

What a gift.

Creative Commons "Got Feedback?" by Alan Levine is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Creative Commons “Got Feedback?” by Alan Levine is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

No one really likes criticism, but it’s often necessary to get honest input in order to grow. And after so many Sundays of well-intended worshipers saying simply “Nice service” or “I enjoyed your message” at the sanctuary door, it was refreshing to get some pointers about specific growing edges.

Still, when someone gives that elusive constructive criticism, it can be hard to hear. Here are a few questions that might make it easier to take to heart:

  • Is this person right? Sometimes we know in the moment that our critic has hit the nail on the head.
  • Does this person have experience or expertise that makes his/her perspective valuable? It would be unwise to ignore valuable advice from someone in the know.
  • What stake does this person have in my success? If he/she is either completely objective or had to work up the courage to deliver a hard word, the criticism is worth considering.
  • What will I do with this feedback? If I choose to act on it, I need to think about what my first steps will be and what needs to be bracketed for later.
  • How will I stay engaged with my critic? If the feedback is helpful, the relationship is worth pursuing.

(For what it’s worth, I revised my project prospectus and got a green light.)

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