There is no way around it. No matter how successful you are, you will eventually face feedback. After all, nobody’s perfect! It may be from customers, colleagues, employees, management, family, or friends. This could be in the form of a casual conversation about a project you are working on together or a scheduled performance evaluation.
So the question is, how can you effectively handle constructive feedback without damaging relationships? When receiving feedback, we often want to defend ourselves or justify our actions; this is natural. However, keep in mind that you always have a choice in how to react. Do not react too quickly or there is a chance you will become defensive and the conversation will turn negative. Pause for a moment, consider the feedback and decide how you can react proactively and positively.
Listen to the feedback with an open mind, recognizing its value. Use it to improve yourself and to solve the problem. You also need to look at the other side—try to understand the perspective of the person offering the feedback. To do this, ask them to confirm what they said by paraphrasing. For example, say “Did I understand you correctly? You want me to provide more detailed weekly reports?” Ask questions to increase understanding. Maintain eye contact and positive body language while you listen and observe the other person’s body language. What do these non-verbal clues tell you?
After listening and asking questions, you can think about what has been said. Use “I” statements to clearly communicate how you feel. You can say, “I understand where you’re coming from…” or “I can see what you’re saying…” to show cooperation. Acknowledge the other party’s concerns by avoiding statements that may show blame or may sound accusatory. Think about solutions together. You can make suggestions on how to improve the issue, but you should expect to receive input too. If you need time to digest the feedback, ask for another meeting but do not wait too long. Ideally, try to follow-up on the same day.
Communication styles vary greatly between cultures, some can be very direct and some are rarely confrontational. Power and authority are also perceived differently in a hierarchical work culture compared to a more relaxed one. Feedback culture can differ vastly for everyone so be aware of differences and manage your expectations. Positive or neutral feedback in one culture could be considered negative in another. Knowing about how you should react in the Canadian workplace is a vital soft skill.
If you are immigrating to Canada and eligible to register with SOPA, enroll in our Soft Skills courses in Professional Communication and Working with Others to learn more about Canadian workplace and cultural communication.
Anika Sweet, Cultural Communications Facilitator, SOPA Atlantic.
Anika works with the SOPA team at Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia and facilitates the Soft Skills: Professional Communication and Soft Skills: Working with Others courses. With a background in teaching English as an Additional Language she has just the right tools to support clients in improving their communication skills for the Canadian Workplace.