I have seen posts about how to give feedback, constructive or otherwise, in professional settings. I believe that having this knowledge is extremely valuable, but is only half of the picture. Being able to receive feedback is a very important skill that you should be working on improving every day.
I have marked this post for beginners because I want to make sure newer developers see this, so they can understand if the people they work with are doing a good job of receiving their feedback or not. I think it is important that newer developers work in environments where mentorship is valued and prioritized, and effectively receiving feedback is a skill that every mentor needs to have.
For the remainder of this blog post, please consider the framing as if the situation features constructive feedback, vs. simple "Good job on X" feedback.
Before diving into the different pieces of what it looks like to effectively receive feedback, I want to establish what I consider to be a golden rule in any feedback scenario:
Be present and attentive. Giving feedback can sometimes be a very uncomfortable situation for the giver. Recognize that this feedback is their reality, and take the situation seriously, no matter what.
As you go through this post, you should be keeping this rule at top of mind. It will be your key to a successful feedback session.
- Listen and Clarify
- Acknowledge and Own
- Pause for reflection
- Express gratitude
- Define clear action items
- Follow up
Listen closely to everything that your feedback giver is telling you, and ask for clarification on any of the feedback if you need it. If you are writing anything down, be sure to only write down exactly what they tell you, because any paraphrasing or "in my own words" will either change or fail to properly capture the feedback you are being given. Even if you are only slightly confused about a piece of their feedback -- that is enough for you to ask for clarification.
Remember the golden rule? It comes through the most here.
My advice on this step is simple - do not deny. Instead of "I didn't say X or imply Y", say "I understand that you interpreted X this way, and I am sorry that I was not clear. My intention was X." (Updated text provided by Jacque Schrag). It is a more empathetic response and allows for progress towards a resolution.
Once it is clear that the feedback giver has given you all of their feedback, do not immediately dive into your response. Ask for a moment to process what they have just told you, and organize your thoughts. Being prepared is key to figuring out the action items and next steps you need to define.
You have reached a point where feedback is delivered, acknowledged, and thought about. Now is the time to work with the giver to set clear action items so that you can avoid the situation occurring again (or, in the case of positive feedback, look for ways to continue having those situations occur!)
This should be among the action items that come out of a feedback session. Schedule time to follow up with the feedback giver to ensure that progress is being made on any action items that arose from the session. This shows your commitment and how serious you are taking the situation.
I hope this small guide will be useful to you the next time someone asks if they can give you some feedback. Following these steps should lead to a good outcome in this kind of situation, and also provide you with a valuable skill and experience along the way.