When feedback makes your ego want to run and hide

Oct 21, 2021

What should you do when receiving feedback makes your ego want to run and hide?

Receiving feedback can be very challenging, especially if it is not something you were proactively seeking or if it was not delivered in the most kind of way, but you can employ some strategies to make it easier. 

1. Start with yourself

Start from a place of gratitude. Think about how challenging it might be for the person providing the feedback. Feedback is a gift, because it is so hard to give and it is rarely received. The person providing feedback to you likely cares about you and is invested in your improvement, and you cannot improve without feedback from others. 

Be aware of Negativity Bias, which is a phenomenon where we give a disproportionate amount of attention to the negative. Some say that we need three or more positives to outweigh one negative. Make yourself the type of person who does not need that, because you see feedback not as a negative, but as a gift. 

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • How does it feel to give feedback to others? Notice your emotions and your physical sensations. Why are you feeling that way? What can you take from that awareness?
  • How does it feel to receive feedback from others? Again, notice your emotions and physical sensations. What drives these feelings? What can you learn from that?
  • What is your perceived difference between positive feedback and constructive feedback? Is there one? If you value them differently, why? How does that impact how you give or receive feedback?
  • Is the feedback about you or about your work? The feedback shouldn't be about you. (If it is, go to HR.) The feedback should be about your work. Notice the difference between the two. You are not your work. You are the sum of infinite contributions. By focusing on it being about the work, you can remove the ego element and be grateful for the opportunity to improve the work.

2. Proactively collect feedback

One of the hardest things about receiving feedback is that it can catch you by surprise. Take some control of the feedback situation so that you are in a place and state of mind to most openly accept the feedback.

To do that, proactively seek it out. For instance:

  • Have a standing time with your manager or a colleague where the objective is to receive feedback. Not just the annual performance review time when a year’s worth of dirt gets dumped on you, but frequently and proactively so that it becomes the way you do things. 
  • Always collect evaluations from events and programs. By building evaluation into the way you do work, you’re signaling to others that you value their perspectives, that you expect them to think deeply, and that you’re always learning. Plus, you then have an ever-growing record of data from which to draw and you can review the results when you’re ready for it.
  • Build a reflective practice where you debrief the work yourself. Being the high-achiever that you are, you are likely your own toughest critic. Document your thoughts, and use that as a roadmap for future improvements.

If someone tells you that they don’t have any feedback to give you, they’re likely either lying to you or they’re not actually thinking critically. With a growth mindset and/or a continuous improvement mindset, no work is ever done or perfect, so there is always room for improvement. By being proactive about seeking feedback, you’re demonstrating that they don’t have to lie (you actually want their opinions) and that you expect them to think critically (which is a sign of a positive organizational culture).

Since you’re probably pretty great at your job, proactively collecting feedback will likely be a great boost to your esteem rather than an attack on your ego, since you’ll likely get lots of positive feedback!

Best questions for proactively seeking feedback:

Below are two fantastic questions to ask others. By asking a specific question and only asking for one idea, it’s less intimidating. It forces their brain to focus on this reasonable, specific request. Plus, when asking for one idea, you usually get more; but if you ask how you can improve in general, you’ll likely get a watered down “Oh, it was all good” response.

  • “What’s one way that I can improve on _____?” 
  • “What’s one thing that you really liked about _____?”

3. Share development goals

Take the strategy of “proactively collect feedback” to the next level by sharing your professional development goals with others. When your colleagues, manager, and mentors know what you’re trying to achieve, it helps you direct the narrative and it helps them know what to look for. 

For example, if they know that you’re working on building exceptional public speaking skills and that you want their help to get there, they’ll be more likely to give you feedback on your speaking and presence, and less on aesthetic slide edits. (Plus, they might be more motivated to help you prep for the presentation in the first place!)

Questions to ask others:

  • How might I achieve my professional development goals?
  • What’s the top obstacle to achieving those goals that I might not see?
  • If you were in my place, how would you prioritize these goals?

Note: Not clear on your professional development goals? No worries! I’ve got ya: Grab your Professional Development Planner.

💬  Speaking of feedback

I'd really appreciate some feedback about a project I'm working on! Join me for a 60 minute call, where I give you 30 minutes of free Project Coaching, and then we discuss an idea that I have. This Consultation Exchange is for growth-minded, high-achieving, purpose-driven professionals who have (or are about to have) a leadership role at their organization. This offer stands through the end of 2021, so sign up for your time slot now! 


Megan E. Mozina
Founder & Principal
Cresta Solutions


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