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To give better feedback, you must fully understand the agony of receiving it

Sumatran tiger Melati looks inside a present box put out to celebrate the first birthday of her cub triplets in their enclosure at London Zoo in London, February 4, 2015. The Zoo left gifts for the cubs in their enclosure, but they were afraid to approach the boxes, leaving their mother to enjoy their contents. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth (BRITAIN - Tags: ANIMALS ENVIRONMENT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - LM1EB240ZTG01
Reuters/Stefan Wermuth
Feedback is a gift.
  • Leah Fessler
By Leah Fessler

Reporter, Quartz at Work

Published Last updated on This article is more than 2 years old.

Smart people love talking about how to give feedback. But not many talk about how to receive it.

No matter how profoundly we might embrace concepts like radical transparency, hearing “Your presentation missed the mark,” or worse, is never a comfortable moment.

As animals wired for self-defense, our knee-jerk reaction is to reject hard feedback. And then we might go through something resembling the five stages of grief. Anger (“He’s crazy, my presentation rocked!”) spirals into denial (“Who is he to speak, his emails are gibberish!”) and then perhaps some bargaining (“Oh god, he’s right; please don’t let me get fired tomorrow”) followed by some wallowing if not actual depression.

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