In this season of giving, we can take stock of how we’ve done this past year by accepting the “gift” of feedback. Are you kidding me? Feedback? A gift? Yes, a gift in more ways than one.


Sometimes it’s like that perfect gift: Oh my gosh, how did you know? That’s exactly what I needed to hear?


Many other times it’s like those gifts we didn’t ask for and don’t really want to receive: Yeah well, who asked you? Or worse: I disagree completely with what you’re telling me.


If you’re skeptical about looking at feedback as a gift, I understand. Feedback is tough. The authors of a book called Thanks for the Feedback talk about how feedback balances itself delicately at the intersection of two human needs:


  1. The need to improve
  2. The need to be accepted

I couldn’t agree more. As a communication coach who lives and breathes the subject of feedback, I should, in theory, be completely comfortable with it. And yet, even I tense up a bit when I’m hearing someone express what they think of me or something I’ve done.


So if you’re human and tense up when you get feedback, please accept my gift to you this season in the form of 3 tips to keep in mind the next time someone bestows on you the gift of feedback that’s not exactly what you wanted to hear.


Tip #1: Accept it and give thanks

Maybe you pulled this stunt as a young child (I’m sure I did). You get a Christmas or birthday present from someone you don’t know that well, and it’s not anything that you wanted or are excited about. So as a child with with no self-monitoring, you express your disappointment with a face or by dropping the present to make sure the person who gave it to you knows how little you appreciate it. Well, don’t be that child when someone gives you feedback you didn’t ask for or don’t appreciate.


If someone gives you feedback, it shows that they cared enough to do it. They didn’t need to give you any feedback, but they did. They took the time and energy to articulate something that they thought, on some level, could help you. You may not like what they told you, you may disagree with it, you may not be able to do anything with it. It doesn’t matter. If they went through the trouble of giving you feedback, accept it graciously and say “thank you.


If you know you’re just going to discard the feedback as you might a gift for which you have no use, that’s OK. Just don’t do it in front of the person who gave it to you. You’ll feel better about yourself for handling it in this mature and professional way.


Tip #2: Disregard the source

What if someone gives you valid feedback, but it’s someone you don’t respect? Yeah, that’s a tough one. You know they might have a point in the feedback they’re giving you, but if only it had come from someone who didn’t make your stomach turn!


You’re doing yourself a disservice by paying too much attention to the source of the feedback. If they have a point, they have a point. If you don’t want to give them credit for it, then don’t, but don’t disregard the feedback if it’s useful. Just disregard the source.


Many times our ego gets in the way. If you accept and use feedback from someone who’s not on your “favorites” list, then could that mean they deserve more credit than you’ve been giving them? Perhaps, but I’m not even encouraging you to go there at the point you get the feedback. I’m telling you: Pick it up, and put it in your pocket as you would a $5 bill you found on the ground in a public park. It doesn’t matter who it came from; it’s yours now, so use it!

Tip #3: Find the 1% you can use

Not everyone gives great feedback; let’s start with that premise. That’s why when I work with my clients on feedback, we spend more time on giving feedback than on receiving it. So the likelihood of you getting feedback that’s not structured well and that’s of questionable use is pretty high. But that’s OK. Your job in receiving the feedback is to look for that one percent, that grain of useful stuff in the feedback.


Maybe you get feedback from someone you don’t particularly get along with—your workplace nemesis! And maybe the feedback is about something on which you have a very different perspective from the person who gave it: they think you ought to be doing more about problem X, and you think he and his team ought to be doing more. Whatever the case, your 1% of useful stuff might not lie in seeing things the same way he does—you can, in your mind, agree to disagree. Instead your 1% might lie in simply knowing that there are people out there (even if it’s just 1 in 100 people) who perceive a situation that involves you in a very different way than you perceive it. If you didn’t have that awareness before, it’s worth getting the feedback just for that small bit of insight.



If you’re someone who’s eager for all the feedback you can get and consider it all a gift, congratulations! I hope you get lots of it this season. If you are like most people out there and are wary of feedback that you didn’t ask for or don’t particularly like to hear, keep these three tips in mind to make the best of the feedback that you do get.


Happy Holidays!



Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high-achieving individuals and teams communicate with Purpose to get the business results they want.