How to accept feedback without getting defensive

Learn how to accept feedback without getting defensive from a leading Executive Coach.

It is important to understand why we get so defensive and how that impacts us in business. But if you find this behaviour has become ingrained in the team as a whole you may find this post useful too: Have You Experienced Collusive Incompetence? (Opens in a new tab for your convenience).

How to accept feedback without getting defensive – script

The question on my mind is – why do we get so defensive?

Ken Blanchard famously said ‘feedback is the breakfast of champions’. And after working with 600 leadership teams in over 35 countries we at Sundial Consulting agree with him.

Feedback is a gift:

  • It helps you get that rare commodity in life of self awareness and really getting to know yourself.
  • It allows you the opportunity to fully understand your strengths and uncover blind spots . It helps you understand your weaknesses and the root cause of them.
  • It helps you to start to unpick what you believe in, what you’re about and what your potential is.
  • It helps you carve away your insecurities that have been holding you back.
  • It helps you to take yourself lighter which yet gives you a weight of gravitas which builds charisma and followership.

So, if it is so useful, why do we block it? Why do we get defensive? I know I do.

I spend so much time trying to help people through feedback, trying to show them how ‘we’ see them from the outside. We all see ourselves very differently from the inside as others do from the outside. And it’s disappointing and it saddens me actually when people defend it. When defensive people don’t take the time to let feedback sink in.

So, why do we put that self imposing learning block in place for ourselves? Why do we come out with that war-like stance when we are given feedback, with shields up and weapons drawn? By doing that, you’ve kind of lost already and it’s such a shame.

At the end of the day we are just animals, our nervous system and our brains are scanning for danger 5 times a second, you don’t think about in consciously but it just happens. Some of us have a more sensitive nervous systems than others. Some people love to sky dive or go on rollercoasters and some don’t.

Some people have a more sensitive scanning system for danger. Some of us were treated unfairly in our childhood and have built up a defensive mechanism to stop it hurting us.

So, how can we change that and open up the opportunity for others to give us feedback?

  1. Just breathe, when you first hear something that pinches you, that doesn’t match your own view of yourself – just breathe in and breathe out
  2. Get curious. Ask ‘Why do you say that? What impact is that having on you? What impact is that blind spot having on me, or the team or the business?
  3. Maybe just try to find one thing in the feedback that you agree with so you can start a conversation.
  4. Realise that the feedback that they are giving you is their reality so it can’t be wrong as that is how they see you and they are behaving on that basis around you.

It is difficult, I find it difficult, but start to see if you can practice ways to bring in feedback to help you build that real self awareness. Find out who you are and what you want to be.

Good luck and I would love to hear your views on this subject by commenting below!


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