How to accept feedback positively?

Accepting feedback positively can be difficult.

I remember showing my work to my boss once. He was completely displeased with what I had done.

When I got on a call, he gave me some extremely harsh feedback. Immediately my mind began to look for ways to defend myself.

After the call, I remember the stingy feeling that came with it. Inside me felt worthless and angry. Doubt was finding its way into my mind too.

But if it weren’t for the harsh feedback, I would still continue making the same old mistakes.

And thank god I learned how to take feedback positively. It improved my work and performance. I would no longer make the same old mistakes.

Feedback is such an important part of growth. Learning how to accept and learn from it can put you in a league ahead of your peers.

So in this article, I’m going to share many useful tips and tricks for accepting feedback positively.

Before we jump into the points, I’ll tell you a real story.

How feedback transformed an 11-year-old into a world champion

Once upon a time, an 11-year-old ambitious boy had a dream of becoming the best player in the world.

He was invited to the best chess school in the Soviet Union to learn under former world champion Mikhail Botvinnik. What a great opportunity!

After going through the games of this young guy, Botvinnik gave harsh feedback: “The boy has no clue about chess and therefore absolutely no future as a chess player.”

Can you imagine what would have happened to the confidence of the 11-year-old? A former world champion saying he has no future in the game?

Many would quit the game at that point. But did this 11-year-old quit chess?
Absolutely not!

Did this 11-year-old become a World champion?
Absolutely YES!

This 11-year-old was none other than the legendary Anatoly Karpov!

A former World Champion Anatoly Karpov | Credits: New York Times

What’s better is that Karpov himself took it as good feedback. Later, Karpov even admitted that Botvinnik’s assessment of his game at that point was correct.

Where most saw the criticism, Karpov saw an opportunity to improve. Quietly, he accepted that opportunity and went on to become a great of the game.

And even after becoming the best player, he didn’t badmouth Botvinnik — a hallmark of a true champion!

Tips to accept feedback positively

Here are some of them:

1. Don’t get defensive

While someone is giving feedback, one of the worst things you can do is get defensive.

In a defensive state, you tend to focus on protecting yourself rather than listening to what the other person is saying. This can lead to misunderstandings and missed opportunities for growth.

Also, defensiveness comes across as someone being unwilling to change. This could damage the relationship with the person giving feedback.

See feedback as an opportunity to learn, not as criticism.

2. Appreciate the good intentions of the one giving feedback

The person giving you feedback may have taken time to review the effort you put in. It’s likely that you’re important and that they care about your growth. Look at them through this lens.

It will help you focus on the feedback itself, rather than on the person giving it.

And what if the person giving feedback is someone you know doesn’t care about you? Well, in that case, their words can feel like harsh judgment.

If their goal is to attack you, then there’s nothing wrong with being defensive. But first, listen to everything they have to say. Because who knows, they might have a valid idea you actually need to work on.

Easier said than done. But when you get good at finding feedback from people who don’t care about you and then implement those changes, you’ll grow very fast. You’ll have the motivation to prove them wrong.

3. Listen intently

It’s important to have an open mind by not being defensive.

At the same time, it’s important to listen with your ears open to the person giving you feedback. Pay full and undivided attention.

It’s as simple as keeping distractions away, switching off your phone and not interrupting.

4. Ask clarification questions

If you think you did something right, and the person giving feedback doesn’t agree with it, clarify with them. Once again, you don’t want to get defensive.

The main point of asking clarification questions is to understand the difference between their style and your style of doing the same thing. Getting to understand their perspective is key.

If you don’t agree with their point, politely mention how you differ from their view. Try to come up with a solution if the same situation happens in the future.

5. Summarize what you’ve learned

Summarizing will help you process and retain the new information you’ve learned. It will also help you develop a plan for making changes.

Consider taking notes. Paraphrasing whatever you learned can be a good idea for summarizing the key highlights from the feedback. It also shows that you listened to the person giving feedback and makes them feel valued.

6. Be grateful

My career as a chess player suffered because I didn’t have anyone to give feedback.

I kept making the same mistakes.
I kept losing because I was too blind to see my own weaknesses.

It’s a huge bonus if you have someone to show you’re on the wrong track. It can cut short your learning curve.

So whenever someone takes the time out to give you feedback, show them your appreciation.

7. Implement the changes

The true mark that you’ve taken feedback positively is when you begin doing things differently.

You no longer make the same old mistakes. You have a new perspective of looking at the old things. As you begin to implement new changes, you can expect better results.


In conclusion, feedback is an essential part of personal and professional growth. Listen, ask questions, avoid defensiveness and use feedback as a learning opportunity.

It can also be a great opportunity to practice gratitude and build friendships.

Don’t forget to summarize the feedback by taking notes and implementing the new learnings.

Wishing you lots of growth!

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