Developing a Growth Mindset when Receiving Feedback

In both our careers and personal lives, we receive feedback in many ways. We love to hear appreciation for a job well done, but when it comes to advice based on things we could change or improve, it can get complicated. Personal bias can trigger us into being dismissive and, as a result, inhibit an opportunity for growth.

By changing our immediate response from “that’s wrong” to “tell me more,” we can learn from those around us and become better people. This is part of having a growth mindset: the belief that our skills aren’t set in stone; they can be improved through hard work and perseverance.

Why We Can Dismiss Feedback

It’s easy to ignore information that we don’t like or don’t think is true. This can even be helpful sometimes! But when we receive feedback, our own assumptions can prevent us from growing. If we feel that feedback is outdated, biased, or outright wrong, we tend to ignore it instead of questioning how/why it came to be in the first place!

And feedback isn’t always served up on a silver platter, full of useful details and context. In fact, most feedback is generic rather than specific (things like, “Be more confident” or, “I wish you would listen more”). It’s up to us to take what’s there and grow from it.

Investigating Feedback

When we dismiss feedback that we don’t agree with, we lose a chance to grow as people and understand others. To better analyze the situation, we should ask two things about the feedback:

  1. Where is it coming from?
    Was there a situation that inspired the comment you received? Several situations? Knowing the other person’s perspective is key.
  2. Where is it going?
    What’s the actual advice here? What are the expectations? Does action need to be taken?

Everyone perceives themselves and those around them a little differently. By taking a genuine, inquisitive approach, it’s easier to bridge the gap between perception and reality.

What Do You Mean?

A big part of growth is acknowledging that you don’t know everything. For example, I was once told, “I wish you would listen more.”

This was really confusing. “I wait for them to finish their thoughts,” I thought. “I nod every now and then. What do they mean ‘not listening?'”

Had I asked some questions, I would’ve learned that what they actually meant was, “I wish you would engage with my interests; for example, there’s this TV show that I want you to watch, and I’m dying to talk about it!”

Instead, the guilt of making someone feel unheard made me react quickly based on an assumption that was incorrect.

Growth Is Uncomfortable

Oftentimes, growth is uncomfortable because it requires us to acknowledge personal flaws. Let’s say you’ve been doing well recently; you’ve received glowing feedback from coworkers in the past. However, during the company’s annual review, you’re looked over for a promotion you thought you’d receive.

Instead of accepting this as something out of your control, you have an opportunity to grow. You can ask for suggestions on what you were missing. Maybe there’s a skill that needs improvement. With hard work and communication, you can use the feedback you receive to work toward receiving a promotion in the future.

Atomic’s Accelerator program reintroduced me to growth mindset strategies. I highly recommend the book Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen as a resource for understanding others and improving yourself when you receive feedback.