One of the most important skills required in today’s new economy is the ability to properly accept feedback from others. Whether that feedback is in an informal discussion, a performance evaluation written by your direct supervisor, or a 360 completed by your peers, it is essential that you know how to respond appropriately to professional feedback.

It probably goes without saying that when the feedback is positive it’s not hard to accept another’s opinion of us – we feel good about ourselves and we find it easy to believe them. But what do you do when the feedback is critical and unexpected? What then?

There are 3 rules for receiving feedback about your performance:

Rule #1: Listen calmly to what is being said.
Listen without defending or objecting to the data in any way. We know that this can be uncomfortable, but it is a critical first step to receiving feedback – you need to demonstrate that you can actually listen to the information that is being presented.

Rule #2: Thank them for bringing the information to your attention.
No one likes to get bad information about their performance and fewer people like to deliver it. Thanking the messenger is an important part of the conversation because it keeps you engaged in the moment. Now is not the time to worry about whether or not the information is true– now is the time to show that you can listen with an open mind and stay professionally engaged.

Rule #3: Schedule a time to meet again.
The goal is to meet later once you have had a chance to review/absorb the data more fully. (The last thing you want to do is to react in the moment to information that may have left you feeling hurt, misunderstood, angry, and maligned.) By scheduling a time to talk about the feedback later, you have the advantage of formulating a response to the data that is not steeped in emotion.

If you can follow these 3 rules you will establish yourself as a professional who takes feedback well. Next week we will look at how to formulate a response; for now start envisioning yourself enacting these 3 rules and you will be one step closer to receiving feedback with professional grace and skill.