skip to Main Content

What to Do When You Learn What Others Really Think about You

Receiving 360 degree feedback is hard.

You ask the people you work with to tell you what they really think about you. So, of course, the feedback usually contains a few unpleasant surprises. As Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen point out in their book Thanks for the Feedback, “There is a gap between the self we think we present and the way others see us.” The challenge is to do our best to react to tough feedback more from a place of gratitude and curiosity than one of indignation and dismissal. Easier said than done!

There is a gap between the self we think we present and the way others see us.

When we are surprised, or even shocked, by negative feedback, common reactions are anger and/or anxiety. Then we tend to enter a phase of rationalization. Our defense mechanisms kick in, and we find ourselves explaining away the feedback. Stone and Heen recommend “When you notice yourself wondering What was their agenda? And What’s wrong with them?, make sure your next thought is I wonder if this feedback is sitting in my blind spot.

Now comes our moment of truth.

Do we stay in that place of resistance, push the feedback aside, and go on about our business? Or do we take a deep breath and dig into the feedback in hopes of becoming a better person?

It’s a really good idea to get help processing troubling feedback.

Who can you lay that 360 degree feedback report in front of and completely bare your soul, trusting they genuinely care about you and want what is best for you? Who will let you process out loud without judgment—and will practice candor combined with compassion as they share what they see in you?

I was very fortunate to have a boss who fit this category when I did my first 360 degree feedback survey. I had no reservations about showing him my feedback report because we had an established relationship of trust and honesty.

Who is it for you? Your boss? Someone else at work? Your spouse? Your best friend? It’s great to seek additional clarity. How you go about that can make all the difference. Stone and Heen suggest asking, “’What do you see me doing, or failing to do, that is getting in my own way?'” The authors go on to say, “They may start timidly (‘Well, on occasion I suppose that you sometimes…’), but if you respond with genuine curiosity and appreciation, they’ll be able to paint you a picture that is clear, detailed, and useful.” And isn’t that really what you want?

For some firsthand perspective on using helpful feedback, we invite you to hear from Kim Malec, Director of Sales for the Kimberly-Clark Sam’s Club team. Kim took part in Milestone’s immersive Leadership Circle for Suppliers and gained some excellent perspective that has given her meaningful guidance both professionally and personally. If Kim’s experience sounds like something that could benefit you or someone you know, registration for our limited-size fall cohort is now under way.

By the way, keeping a sense of humor is also a really good idea.

Here’s the full title of Stone and Heen’s book: Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well*    *even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and, frankly, you’re not in the mood

Written by: Sandy Tush, Partner – Milestone Leadership

Back To Top