David Stollman

Millennials are said to have thin skin; they can’t take critical feedback. This may be true, but it’s not less true for older generations as well. Regardless if this is a trait millennials possess in greater numbers, we ALL can learn how to better receive critical feedback.

It could be from a boss, organizational leader, friend, significant other… it doesn’t matter. Use these tips to remove the discomfort and help you genuinely make the most of all critical feedback!

1. Listen -Don’t just wait to speak or prepare arguments against what they are saying, really listen to what they say and what they mean. The better you are at listening, the better you can really understand someone’s feedback, both through what they are saying, and what they may not be explicitly saying, but really mean.

2. Avoid Defensiveness – If you walk into a conversation with humility and even start with the assumption that they might actually be right, you can avoid defensiveness that can degrade the relationship, your credibility as a leader, and your ability to actually learn and grow. Defensiveness is a very natural response to criticism, however it is recognizably unhelpful and can be effectively done away with so long as we don’t focus on that feeling.

3. Appreciate Their Effort -Many people run from difficult conversations. They are scary; they require strength,emotional openness, and personal responsibility that many people find challenging to channel at will. If someone cares enough about you that they push past that fear in order to provide you with helpful feedback, it is an absolute gift! They deserve appreciation for simply trying to help you even if their opinion, approach, language, or timing isn’t the best. Doing so encourages more people to give you feedback that might really be helpful someday. If we expect all feedback to be helpful and shame those who offer earnest feedback that doesn’t happen to pan out, we risk quieting those who may have something helpful to offer in the future.

4. Restate & Clarify – Make NO assumptions. Ensure that you truly understand what they are saying and why there are saying it by using their own language as best you can to restate their thoughts. Define the specific language your using; clarify terms crucial to the conversation. Remove all judgment in wording, tone, and body language. Try to be as objective as possible.

5. Respond Genuinely – There are only three viable options:

a) You’re right. Thank you for pointing this out. – Be genuinely appreciative. They are helping you to get better. Most people who don’t really care about you would just keep their thoughts to themselves. The fact they are willing to risk talking with you about it deserves your appreciation and admission when they are right. Admitting you’re wrong isn’t easy, but it is important if you want to be a leader, or even just respected.

b) I appreciate your honest feedback but I don’t completely agree. (and here’s why) – Remember #2. Honest people can disagree, and when the do so respectfully, there need be no ill will between them. Provide clear, unemotional reasoning for your opinion and ask that they consider why you disagree.

c) I need time to process this. – It is completely appropriate to ask for some time to digest what they said. It shows your respect them enough to hear them and take them seriously. This is especially effective when the topic can bring up strong emotional reactions. Taking time allows for getting past past feeling personally victimized when it is not an appropriate response and really making the most out of any feedback you are lucky enough to get.

Join me this fall as I launch my newest program on handling the hard, but necessary, conversations in your life: Drop the Drama. Drop the Drama focuses on cutting through the anxiety and miscommunication that often shrouds emotionally charged conversations. Communication is a real skill, and I’m here to help you hone that skill.Credit // Author: David Stollman

Credit // Author: David Stollman


David Stollman helps fraternities and sorority chapters held back by members who don’t get it, or who just don’t care embrace the best members and get rid of the rest.

Learn more about David and his challenging, funny, interactive and moving style at campuspeak.com/stollman.