Being Intentional With Feedback

It’s guest post Monday! This post is written by Tom Dixon who offers practical career help on his blog Monday is Good. I encourage you to check out his blog and consider his coaching services. You can connect with him on  Facebook.  If you would like to have a post featured on my site then click here. 

First, let me say that feedback is a gift. We need more of it in our lives. The two best ways to get feedback are to actively solicit it from others, and to give it freely. The cruelest thing you can do to someone else is to withhold feedback that could help them grow. When you let something constructive go unsaid, you are stealing from that person.

Okay, so let’s say you agree with me so far. Feedback is good. But what if the message is negative?  A friend calls you out for not meeting a commitment. A fellow motorist sends a hand gesture your way. Your spouse says you are working too late. Our first reaction when faced with these situations is often to get defensive or even angry.  We don’t even consider that it may be true, or an opportunity to make a change.

I have found the best approach is to make a conscience decision about what my reaction is going to be. Take the emotion out of it. Evaluate the feedback constructively.

Feedback generally falls into one of these four quadrants:



Quadrant 1 – Embrace.  This is feedback that is true, but you don’t care because it is consistent with a decision you already made. Your boss snidely comments that you always leave work right at 5PM. That part is true. However, you made a commitment to be home for dinner and help with homework every night. So the feedback serves to reinforce the decision you have already made – and you can embrace it.

Quadrant 2 – Ignore. This is feedback that isn’t true, and you don’t care – the superfluous stuff we spend a lot of time worrying about. Someone comments that they don’t like your shirt, or that your belt buckle is too big. The best thing to do with this feedback is ignore it.

Quadrant 3 –  Change. This is feedback that is true, and you care because it reveals an inconsistency with a decision you have already made. This is where the value is – and the type of feedback you are looking for. A former boss points out an exaggeration on your resume. Your spouse tells you your family needs more of your time. The best thing to do with this feedback is make a plan and change.

Quadrant 4 – Damage Control. This is feedback that is not true, and you care because it suggests you are not living up to the standard you set for yourself. A colleague makes a derogatory comment about your work quality during a team meeting. These situations require you to confront the situation head on, and do some damage control. If that seems like too much, then you don’t really care that much and it’s really a quadrant 2 issue – so ignore it.

Actively choosing how best to respond to feedback allows us to make the most of it without taking it personally or getting angry. The trick is to pause as soon as you start to feel defensive, and evaluate what type of feedback you are dealing with.

Question: What is the most eye-opening feedback you have received?  How did you respond?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

34 thoughts on “Being Intentional With Feedback

  1. The most eye-opening feedback I have received was to not cram everything I know into one lesson/speech. I didn’t have to proved everything I knew in one session. I still use that idea to this day, and it helped me focus on my speaking in a completely different way. I didn’t need to approach my audience and overwhelm them with data.

  2. I once received an email that was a tongue lashing for an idea that I had to recreate a sales system. The short version was: you don’t have to prove you are smart, leave stuff alone.

    There were 3 things I learned:

    1. Don’t lash someone with an email.
    2. I don’t have to be smarter than everyone else to be successful
    3. Creativity should be encouraged, not kicked.

    • Our co-workers love to “kick” creativity as you phrase it, don’t they? There is a ton of resistance to change out there, and it often surprises me how quickly people get comfortable with the way “we’ve always done it.” I love how what you learned takes into consideration what the other person said, but more than anything showed you how not to react like he/she did.

  3. Great post. The part about not responding in emotion is the key to all things in life I think. Being able to take our self out of the equation is the beginning of something much bigger than ourselves. Wisdom requires this and a lot of wisdom in this post. I need to take that moment to remove my emotions…. How much better would the world be if everyone practiced this?

    • I think we’d slow down and be a lot more patient with each other for sure. It is much easier to get emotional and defensive than to see if there is any truth in the feedback (no matter how poorly delivered).

  4. I love this diagram with the quadrants. It seems like it would also be helpful in giving feedback to others in non-work situations. If we’re giving feedback to a person who doesn’t care (and may even dislike feedback) or whom we know won’t agree with us, it might be pointless to give the feedback – unless they’re our non-adult kids and we have a responsibility to shape their character.

    • Exactly, thanks Barb. You can apply this outside of work for sure – but I hadn’t thought of withholding feedback that would (or should) just be ignored. That would be an awesome filter to put our words through if we know the person well enough.

  5. I like the quadrants. Very helpful in dealing with feedback. So often people don’t ignore certain feedback and it drains them…I know I’ve been guilty of this. I think using this quadrant theory will help take the emotion out of decisions/feedback (such as embracing a decision even if others may not like it and ignoring the negative).

    Great post.

  6. The quadrants are great and would be an incredibly helpful too for teaching this material in a live setting as well.
    I appreciate this post because you divided feedback into the different quadrants. Too often we view it all equally…which of course means it frustrates us. Knowing what the feedback is helps to dictate the appropriate response.
    Thanks, Tom!

  7. Great post Tom. Glad to see you on Dan’s blog!

    Feedback is crucial in relationships. Without it, we don’t know whether or not we’re succeeding. It’s definitely been a struggle at my current workplace. Feedback seems to be few and far between, if expressed at all.

  8. When I first self-published this year I would hit my social media accounts hard, really hard. My good friend of ten years unfriended me because he said I was a “spammer”. I had to sit back and think about it and realized he was right. Once I stopped, people responded, weird :)

    • Thanks for the feedback! I know what you mean about feeling like a spammer – and that something that is so easy to do. I publicize my blog on social media – but just on post days and only once on Facebook & Google + for just that reason. I think Twitter “feels” different than the other two – so I tweet three times a day there. It is way better to just try to put out good content and build one reader at at a time.

    • I’m glad you got that out of the post, was really my main point. There is usually truth somewhere in feedback – especially the feedback we don’t want to acknowledge.

  9. The feedback that I got was from my wife last year and a Business partner of mine. My wife said that I spent too much time online and with my phone. It is my livelihood to be online but in hearing that I still became more intentional about my time online and will continue that into next year. Its great to get feedback and I usually decide what I am going to do with that feedback once I receive it.