Tip # 49: Drop Those Defenses

Sometimes we receive feedback from someone that doesn’t feel good to hear. We get defensive and argue that they “just don’t understand.” Instead of deflecting their comments, listen to what they have to say. It may be true that they don’t understand, but we can learn about them—their values, priorities and feelings—just by listening. From that vantage point, we gain the upper hand and can craft an appropriate and productive response. And you never know; once you stop deflecting and start listening, you may realize what they’re offering is valuable, even valid feedback.

The next time someone criticizes you, make an effort to listen and not become defensive. Write down what you heard. What did you learn about the person? Is there any insight to be gained from what they presented to you?

Of all the tips offered in 128 Tips to Make You a More Effective Leader, this may be the most challenging one to master. Hearing negative feedback often elicits a knee-jerk reaction...

And it’s not to send a thank you note.

The most important thing to remember in the moment is to pause.

I have found it useful to remind myself that feedback is 100% about the giver…and there may be a grain of truth in it about you, too.


Think about it: The person who is giving you negative feedback is describing THEIR feelings, their thoughts, their judgments. They may be correct about you, too… or not.

What is correct is the great insight they are offering you about what is important to them? Good to know!

Their words may not feel like a compliment to you, but their actions give you an insider’s view of them.