Ep. 79 – Feedback Isn’t Always a Gift & How to Return It

There is a saying that feedback is a gift. 

And while that may be true in some cases, this episode explores why not every gift needs to be accepted and how to gracefully receive or return what is being offered.

The Bottom Line on Top of this episode is that feedback is simply a free opinion from someone else, and you get to decide what, if any, value there is in it. 

There are often times where input is a true investment. It can be an essential component of how we learn, adapt, and grow. 

Our brain has a process for sorting and absorbing feedback through a complex network of neural circuits. For example, the limbic system, particularly the amygdala, helps process the emotional aspects of feedback. And feedback carries a range of emotions when we experience it. 

Positive feedback can inspire us to feel pride and satisfaction while negative feedback (and that’s the stuff we remember most) can lead to frustration, disappointment, or even fear.

So while we are out there feeling the feels, another part of our brain also gets involved. The prefrontal cortex helps, now this is the decision-making center, so it helps assess the significance of the feedback and can offer options for how to respond vs. react. 

What’s the difference there? A lot, actually. 

When feedback & feelings mix, we’re more likely to react in the moment. When there’s a measure of consideration, we can usually come up with options on how to respond. Episode 50 spends more time on how to train your brain to recognize the difference between react and respond.

For today’s conversation, a reaction may be felt as an immediate emotional sensation to the feedback or to the words whereas a response shows up more as a cognitive counter to what was being shared. 

Let’s look at a few examples and start with ideas of how to decline the gift of feedback. We may not always know at first if the feedback will be helpful, so one of the things to ask yourself is if you’re in the right place to receive any feedback. 

And by that, I mean, do you have time to engage in a conversation at that level? Do you have the emotional or intellectual energy to process what’s about to be offered? Were you even asked or was the gift dumped at your door?

If any of these elements are involved, here are a few options on how to not receive something. 

The first is simply to do nothing. No response is always a response when something is unwelcome or unwanted. 

I was talking to a friend recently and she shared how they recently received an out-of-the-blue note with some very not-nice words. “I would have been hurt by that before,” she said. But then she shared these golden nuggets that are perfect examples of a response vs. a reaction. 

While she chose not to respond to that person at all, she had these thoughts that I’m definitely adding to my mental catalog and they were these:

  • Thanks for reminding me why you don’t deserve a place in my life. 
  • Whatever triggered that reaction from that other person has nothing to do with me. 
  • I may have allowed that behavior at some point. Not anymore. 

Ok, so that is for the intentionally negative comments that are sometimes unceremoniously given to us. Here are two options on how to make space to receive feedback just on your own terms:

  • I appreciate your willingness to provide feedback, however, I am currently in the middle of something. Let’s discuss this again when I can give it my full attention. 
  • I value your input, and am also not in the best place to receive it at the moment. Let’s find time to talk more when I can focus on it properly. 

Let’s also make a quick comment here on the art of receiving positive feedback. One of the best compliments you can give is to accept a compliment. A quick acknowledgement is often the best response without any qualifiers, details, or explanations. So saying something like this:

  • “Thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time to share that with me. It means a lot.”

Technically those are three responses, so feel free to use any or all. Sometimes “thank you” is the best and most elegant thing to say. And I hope that positive feedback is a gift you get a lot of practice receiving. If you find this challenging (and a lot of us do), check out Episode 71 for more on the art of receiving. 

One last point is that all of this applies to the feedback we give ourself, too. Sometimes the very best way to take good care is to not take what isn’t needed.  

Your brain is hungry. Give it some intellectual snacks in the
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I'm Kristin

I left my corporate work and dove further into how to navigate this noisy, digital, exhausted world. The result is a methodology centered on communications, productivity, and culture that blends theory with practice and helps people better enjoy the life they worked so hard to get.