the art of receiving feedback

In building a business, creativity, deep thoughts, inspiration, motivation, product management, upside by Jay Clouse

Last week when Eric and I were about to launch our podcast, upside, I told him to bundle up for “feedback winter.”

This is something I’ve come to accept: when you put your baby out to the world, people are going to call your baby ugly. They don’t even mean to, but inevitably you’ll be deeply hurt by what is meant to be constructive criticism.

And a lot of it is constructive. People tend to focus on what could be better, and you end up with what feels like a ton of “negative” feedback and little positive. It’s just how our brains work — people ask us for feedback, and we want to help make it better. Just saying, “this is great!” does not offer ways to make it better.

Three things need to happen at this point:

  1. You need to be open and grateful for all feedback
  2. You need to parse the feedback for signal vs. noise
  3. You need to be resilient and keep going

The book Thanks for the Feedback asserts that our system of feedback is often broken because we don’t know how to receive it gracefully.

All feedback is a gift, and you should not only be open to it, but you should seek it out. And all feedback is valid when it comes from a place of, “This is what I think or feel about this.”

You can’t deny how someone feels about or interprets your work, and you certainly should not dispute it or become defensive. At this point, you’ve cut off your ability to receive honest feedback in the future — you’ve looked the gift horse in the mouth. Just smile and say “thank you.”

That doesn’t mean that you have to agree with or act on all feedback. Quite the contrary — you need to be insightful with who you listen to and why. Not all feedback is created equal, and not all feedback will make your work better.

The people who your work is truly for matter. Their feedback should be taken seriously. But there’s a place for trusting your instincts with your work as well (especially when your work is not explicitly intended to make a profit).

It’s easy to get discouraged when you receive early negative feedback, but you’ve done the hardest part: you’ve put out a product. So many people don’t have the courage to do that.

Feedback is an invaluable part of the process. Seek it out, file it away, look for patterns, and get back to work!

Cheers,
Jay


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