feedbackIn my career as entrepreneur I’ve had a few dozen employees. What I learned as a boss is that there are two different kinds of people: people who see feedback as an opportunity for improvement and people who see feedback as a personal attack.

How to Take Feedback

I used to be really bad at taking feedback. I’d get defensive and try to argue every time. But as I grew older and became more confident I started understanding that there’s always room for improvement. You can fight people who give you feedback, or listen carefully, thank them and then decide what to do with it.
This doesn’t mean that you always need to follow the advice you get. But you should take some time to consider it. If it’s in line with your values and goals, use it. Otherwise, ignore it. When you get feedback, say “thank you”; don’t try to explain why you’re right and the other person is wrong.
The reason people get defensive when they get feedback is that they’re insecure. And, insecure people have the constant need to prove they’re right. Confident people, on the other hand, know they have nothing to prove and take every opportunity they can to get better. They don’t care whether the idea is theirs or someone else’s. They recognize that a good idea is a good idea, no matter where it comes from.

How to Give Feedback

Before I give anyone advice I try to start by asking questions. Unless we fully understand why someone is doing something a certain way, our advice will be irrelevant at best.
We also need to keep in mind that what we want is different from what other people want. “Go to college, work hard and get a job” is great advice for some people, but when my mom gave me this advice she was asking me to do something that was important to her. I wanted to travel around the world, play rugby and be an entrepreneur. Different people find happiness through different paths. Don’t assume that yours is the right path for everyone.
Whenever possible, I like sharing my own experiences and lessons learned instead of telling someone what to do. For example, instead of giving advice to a friend who had his heart broken, I can share how I dealt with it when it happened to me. Once again, we don’t know what’s best for other people, but we can share what has or hasn’t worked for us in the past.
When giving direct feedback is the best way to go, focus on how you want it done in the future, not how badly it was done in the past. Instead of saying “I don’t like how little contrast there is between the text and the background” I can say “I love these fonts! Let’s increase the contrast between the text and the background.” This is a very subtle difference, but in the first scenario I’m telling people they did something wrong, whereas in the second scenario I’m giving them praise for what they did right and asking them to change something.


Listen to feedback. If it helps you, use it. Otherwise, ignore it. But always consider it, and thank the person giving it to you. They’re not attacking you, they’re giving you ideas. Listen. Don’t try to prove you’re right.
Before giving advice, ask questions and seek to understand. Keep in mind that each person walks a different path and advice that’s good for you might not work for them. Whenever possible, share your experience instead of giving advice. When you do give feedback, focus on how you want something done, not how poorly it was done before.