How to Use Constructive Feedback to Your Advantage

By Megan Bauer
The Hoffman Agency, Portland-Vancouver

As we all know and have come to learn since childhood, feedback is a part of life. Whether it comes in the form of comments on a paper or thoughts from a manager, it is always present.

Yet even with reassurance, constructive feedback can be difficult to hear and then employ in real life.

Throughout my career, working at a few different companies, I’ve received feedback in many forms — as every company and manager has their own style when it comes to communicating. In that time, I’ve thought about various ways to manage and apply feedback to my own professional life.

While my ideas may not be a “one-shoe-fits-all” type of situation, I’m hoping that one or two of these tips will be applicable to others.

The first step is managing feedback.

One of the hardest parts about getting constructive feedback is not taking it to heart. That’s why when we receive criticism, it’s important to take a step back and realize that every single person has something that he or she can improve on. The reason we are given feedback is so that we can continue to improve ourselves.

So if you receive some feedback that’s harder to hear, think about this:

  1. If you apply this feedback, your managers will respect you for wanting to improve and become a more valuable member of the team
  2. You will grow as an individual and become a greater asset to the company and, in turn, your career

Now the question is how to really apply it. This can happen in two different ways.

The first approach is figuring out a way to digest it, and the second is figuring out a way to remember it over time.

For me, the best way I have found to digest it is by finding relatable situations. So, if a manager is giving me feedback on how to respond to certain types of client emails, I would ask for a specific example of what I did recently that wasn’t exactly on par — that way I can relate it to a real situation. Then when something like that comes up in the future, I’ll actively think about it.

As far as finding a way to keep it in mind over time, there are a few different ways to do this:

  1. Write it down and pin it up by your computer — that way you’re looking at it on a daily basis
  2. Put it in an email folder for feedback, and review it every once in a while for a gut check with yourself
  3. Ask your manager for updates on your progress in your meetings/check-ins

As mentioned before, these ideas may not be applicable to everyone, but they could be helpful or spur some new thoughts around constructive feedback and how to apply it. At the end of the day, it’s really there to help us grow as professionals.

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