Mastering the Art of Feedback 

Recently, I had the chance to be a part of Naperville’s own version of Shark Tank. Through the Business Incubator program, area business leaders mentor high school students as they worked on creating a business and learning about entrepreneurship’s ups and downs. While observing a Q&A session after a mid-year presentation, I noticed the students reacting to feedback in the same way I’ve seen many adults react (and I, myself, have been guilty of) – with defensiveness instead of an open mind.  This observation allowed me to reflect on the critical skill of receiving feedback—not just hearing it but truly understanding and utilizing it to grow. 

Feedback is an invaluable tool for development, whether in school, in relationships, or at work. However, its impact is deeply influenced by how we receive and how we interpret it. 

Often, an initial response to feedback involves emotions such as frustration, defensiveness, and even anger. It’s human nature. But the true skill lies in stepping beyond these emotions and engaging with feedback constructively. Constructive feedback, the kind that’s meant to guide and improve, is the gold standard. Yet, its true value unfolds when the receiver asks questions like “Can you explain further?” or “Can you give me an example?” This not only clarifies the feedback but also demonstrates a commitment to understanding and improvement. 

Resisting the urge to make excuses or be dismissive is crucial, and it’s difficult. It can be hard at times to find the constructive element in feedback—especially when it’s not immediately apparent and you’re flooded with emotions. Taking a moment to truly listen to someone who is giving their time to help you grow can transform a potentially negative experience into a powerful learning moment. This practice doesn’t just benefit us as individuals; it makes us better team members, employees, and community contributors.

All of that to say, while feedback is important, asking for it, giving it, and receiving it, someone once told me – don’t forget to assign the proper weight to feedback. Consider this: if you wouldn’t value a compliment from someone, why let their criticism upset you?

Giving feedback seems easy, but it must be delivered right to land, and it must be received right to be used best for growth. The whole process is truly an art form – delivering feedback in a way that has the intended impact and receiving it with the mindset of learning.  It requires practice, patience, and a genuine intention to foster growth and understanding. By mastering this art, we not only enhance our personal and professional lives but also contribute to a culture of continuous improvement and respect. Keeping our growth mindset, a goal can be soliciting constructive feedback, as feedback, when given with the intention of helping someone grow and when received well, is a gateway to growth and excellence. Let’s embrace it, question it, and use it to become the best versions of ourselves. 

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