Oct 4, 2022

Love the Bomb: Learn How to Embrace Critical Feedback

Mindset author Dr. Carol Dweck shares valuable tips to take the sting out of criticism. 

Critical feedback often feels like a tiny explosion: shattered expectations everywhere. But according to Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, by shifting your beliefs around feedback so that you start to see it as positive, you’ll experience more learning and personal growth.

Respond to Feedback with a Growth Mindset Vs. a Fixed Mindset 

Think about the last time you got critical feedback or outright rejection. Maybe you got a hard no in response to a raise request. Or your pitch deck came back flagged with a ton of revisions. Perhaps the team-building exercise you worked hard to perfect earned eye-rolls and complaints.   

A fixed mindset offers one way to interpret those responses: You are a failure. Unfortunately, this thought-stopping conclusion shuts the door to improvement.  

A growth mindset, on the other hand, keeps that door open. This paradigm encourages you to assess feedback for the most helpful information, approach critique from a place of curiosity, and find new paths to better outcomes.

Reframe Rejection

After receiving critical feedback, you have two options:

Option A: Retreat into a fixed mindset and decide that your employees hate you or that you’re a terrible leader. This option will hit your ego hard, leaving you less confident and more resistant to trying again. 

Option B: Embrace a growth mindset and acknowledge that this specific exercise wasn’t successful. This option focuses on the work rather than your ability as a leader. It also paves the way for reflection and improvement. 

In our team-building example, a growth mindset might prompt questions like:

  • Do these team members usually complain about similar exercises? If so, what might that behavior reveal about how they’re functioning? 
  • If not, what outside circumstances could have affected the outcome of this exercise? 
  • What made this exercise different from the ones they’ve done before? 
  • Were there any aspects of the activity that earned praise or enthusiasm? 
  • When did the energy shift from openness to negativity?

The answers you uncover can spark new insights about your team and activities that might create unity more effectively.  

Tips to Cultivate a Growth Mindset and Make Tough Feedback Count

Stretch a fixed mindset into a growth mindset with these tips from Dr. Dweck: 

  1. Notice and Question Your Reactions 

Pay attention to the thoughts and feelings that arise when you get critical feedback. If it stings, are you misinterpreting someone’s criticism of your work as criticism of you? Take a moment to consider the outcome if you stay curious rather than shutting down.

  1. Get Proactive

Take an active role in seeking feedback (instead of waiting for it to come to you). This approach allows you to frame the conversation in the most helpful way. Make asking for feedback a habit in your quest for learning and growth.  

  1. Step Outside Yourself

If you feel yourself reacting negatively, pause and consider what you would tell a friend or coworker who got the same critique. Sometimes, a shift in perspective is all it takes to shake off the feeling that the feedback is personal. 

  1. Be Critical of the Criticism

Not all feedback is equal. Sometimes it’s not actionable; other times, it’s the opinion of a cranky person with a fixed mindset! You get to choose what feedback to implement. And if someone criticizes you rather than the work, ignore them.

Critical feedback doesn’t have to feel like shrapnel under your skin. By working to develop a growth mindset, you may even start to crave feedback that helps you improve. 

Choose one of the four tips above to focus on as you work toward a growth mindset. Which stood out to you the most? Tell us on Twitter using #mindset