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Responding to Feedback

Written by Michelle Johns 
April 5, 2024 
A woman at a board meeting in a corporate environment working through feedback with her team.

How to respond to feedback in the workplace

Do you cringe when you hear the words “can I give you some feedback”? I would tense up when hearing these words. Do you experience this too? Do you want to know more about managing feedback without getting defensive? This article will give you tips on how to approach feedback and decide what to do with it.


Feedback can offer powerful self-awareness moments because it can provide you with new perspectives and observations about yourself. But how much of it do we need in our lives? And, is it always provided to improve ourselves? I provide four steps to determine what feedback to take on; and what to let go!

A woman receiving feedback in her role as a corporate leader.

My four feedback steps

1. Say Thank You

When you receive feedback from others, start by listening, asking questions to understand more, and thank them. This way you're not perceived as defensive and are open to feedback. It will also mean that people will continue to share and offer new awareness possibilities. If you are a leader yourself, you also will know that it can take courage to provide feedback to others about a blind spot or any area where they are falling short. So, this recognises the person having the conversation with you may be feeling vulnerable or uncomfortable with the conversation.

Listen, understand and say thanks!

2. Ask yourself why this person is providing me this feedback

Next, you want to understand the purpose of the feedback.

  • Check if this feedback is about you, or them: sometimes people are so far into their self-reflection that they project what they are working on themselves onto the people around them.
  • Does the person have the right intent: Is the feedback to help you be the best person you can be? Do they care about you and your future? Or is it about themselves? Or do they have another agenda?

Ask yourself – what is the why behind their feedback.


3. Do you trust the person offering the feedback?

I once received feedback from a manager that I didn’t respect or trust, yet, I let it take space in my head and affect my confidence. I learned later that this managers' opinion was not the same as others. I reflect on this time in my career and wonder why I wasted my thoughts, energy, and my sense of self-worth on this opinion.

Sense test whether you trust and respect the opinion of the person providing you with the feedback. If you trust someone, it is likely their feedback is something you can follow up. Therefore you can also and trust the actions they recommend. If not, think about why you would listen to their feedback and not your instincts.

Trust yourself and have the self-confidence to let go of feedback from someone you don't trust or respect. Be kind to yourself.


4. Decide what to do with the feedback

Based on the steps above, you know what to do…

  • Put it in the bin: if the purpose is not to help you or if you do not trust the person.
  • Put it in the ‘not sure yet’ basket: this is reserved for when you may not know the person well enough yet to trust them. Put it aside and wait for other signals. If you learn to respect their opinion, pick it up again. Or, if you hear the same feedback from others and a pattern is forming, pick it up again.
  • Back it and action it: this is reserved only when you trust the person providing you with the feedback. You have also checked the purpose of their feedback. Finally, you believe that working on this will help you in your career or life. It has the power to improve the impact you will have on those around you.

Decide to bin it, basket it, or back it!

Remember, you can become the best version of yourself through the transformative journey of self leadership.

Woman laughing and looking confident in a cafe.

In summary, create boundaries around what feedback you will let take space in your thoughts and feelings. Give yourself permission to take or leave it when it comes to offerings of feedback. And hold feedback a little less tightly than you may have in the past.

Want to chat more?

If you're ready to develop your leadership skills, book a call or send me an email to find out how we can work together.
Michelle Johns, owner of Braveheart Coach, sitting at her desk in Melbourne working on her laptop with a notepad by her side.
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