Feedback: Not a Four-Letter Word

Feedback is hardest gift you will ever receive.

96% of employees say getting regular feedback is a good thing.


This one simple word elicits complicated feelings, but it is the one thing we all need to grow.

Whether you are getting or giving feedback, trust is the one component needed to make it land in a positive way. Without trust, feedback – given or received – is met with defensiveness and cynicism.

We have all received embarrassing feedback, and becoming defensive in those moments is normal. Our brain senses it as a threat, triggering our fight-or-flight mechanism, but becoming defensive is counterproductive to our professional development.

The same is true when providing feedback to someone in a high-ranking leadership position. Subordinates fear offering leaders feedback, and leaders who fail to ask to miss an opportunity to grow.

No matter how important your title may be, what made you successful will not necessarily maintain your success. Creating a workplace environment open to feedback starts by building trust. Trust is necessary to grow your influence with others and become the leader you were meant to be.

Here are five ways to create a positive workplace culture that is open to improvement.

Lead by example.

Seek feedback first if you want others to trust and act on what you say. When you lead by example and demonstrate your desire to improve, others will follow. They will more likely seek and receive feedback with an open mind and positive attitude.

Seek someone you trust.

Trust goes both ways and is necessary for everyone – the giver and receiver. Without it, you’re likely to become defensive when what you hear challenges your perception. Without it, the giver will likely refrain from telling you the full truth needed to improve.

Recognize your triggers.

This gift is meant to help you improve, but that doesn’t make hearing it any less difficult. Before you ask for feedback, consider your triggers and how you can properly respond should the feedback sting. How you respond when receiving feedback will determine how much the other person is willing to tell you now and in the future. Control your reactions to maintain trust in the relationship.

No need to fear.

Feedback is meant to help you grow professionally but can also help your relationships grow. Most people are not skilled at delivering constructive feedback and may struggle to express their positive intentions. Give them the benefit of the doubt and trust they have your best interests at heart. They don’t want to hurt you; they want to see you succeed. Receive it in the spirit by which it is intended.

Adopt a growth mindset.

Understanding others' perceptions is key to professional development. It is best received by someone with an open mind. When you willingly seek opportunities to learn, you don’t see mistakes as failures but as chances to improve. Having a growth mindset means making a conscious choice to seek and receive feedback, leveraging it to improve your skills. It means being curious about what others think and proactively seeking their perceptions.


Feeling defensive when hearing feedback is normal, but you don’t have to respond defensively. Build trust in your workplace relationships by seeking feedback and encouraging others to do the same. Grow your influence and your team's influence by providing a safe, open environment to give and receive feedback necessary for success.

Related Articles

Say More. Speak Less.

Say More. Speak Less.

The seven most dreaded words at the beginning of every meeting are, 'Today we are here to talk about.' Follow that sentence with a long-winded monologue or death by PowerPoint, and you've got the makings for a miserable meeting. Instead of inviting your listeners to...

When Feedback Hurts

When Feedback Hurts

Feedback can hurt. We claim to be open to feedback until we dislike an opinion. Then, we become defensive and resistant, making excuses for our behavior. It makes us feel vulnerable, especially when what we hear differs from what we believe to be true. What we choose...

Embracing Discomfort

Embracing Discomfort

Why are we so willing to embrace the pain and discomfort of strengthening our bodies but fight against the pain and discomfort of strengthening our influence? Imagine the soreness your body feels after a tough workout. Twenty-four or 48 hours later, you remain...