Practice makes perfect. No argument there. But how the heck are we supposed to know if what we’re doing is right? Well, we can’t unless we receive a different perspective on our performance. Now wait a second – isn’t that the fancy way of saying that feedback is essential for self-improvement and development? That can’t be right, now can it? Because, if it is, how come we dread it so much? And why do we run from it like it’s a plague?

If you enjoy playing guessing games, you’re out of luck this time. The answer to this one is very simple. We make every effort to avoid it because we usually mistake it for another unpleasant thing – criticism. And there’s hardly anyone who enjoys being exposed to it. So, naturally, we look for all kinds of ways to dodge it.

We all know old habits die hard, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work on them and even change them over time. And if you’re ready for your 2.0 version and you want to learn how to use feedback to your advantage, stay right where you are. We’re just about to tell you how to differentiate feedback from criticism and how to get the most out of it.

Feedback vs. criticism

To be honest, it’s not always easy to distinguish between these two. You’ve probably heard many times that the only difference is the way you hear it. While there might be some truth to it, there’s definitely more at stake than just one’s impression. So how can you tell one from another?

For starters, you need to know that feedback is always beneficial and useful. And this doesn’t mean it can’t be negative; because it can. Actually, negative performance reviews are common in the business world. Especially if you do something for the first time. But there’s no need to dwell on them. It’s nothing personal. Far from it, actually. Feedback deals with problems that can and need to be resolved, not with you. Another wonderful thing you will notice about feedback is that it’s very straightforward. So much so that it offers actionable tips and suggestions on how to make things better. As you can see, a lot can be learned from it. You just need to change the way you look at it.

Criticism, on the other hand, is a world apart from what has just been said. Unlike feedback, it is fully charged with negativity. Its main goal is to point out insufficiencies and shortcomings. What’s more, it focuses on the person who did the work, not the work itself. As it doesn’t offer any solution to the problem, it’s usually vague and non-specific. Being so damaging and demotivating, criticism often leaves you feeling wretched. But even then, it makes for a great opportunity to learn. If not about yourself, then about others. Because it speaks volumes, you just need to know what to pay attention to. Or, as Warren Buffet put it: “Honesty is a very expensive gift, don’t expect it from cheap people.”

Why is feedback so important?

Have you ever been engaged in a conversation where you felt you were talking to a brick wall? Well, not receiving any feedback usually feels that way. That’s because feedback is the bedrock of all effective two-way communication, in every area of our lives. And we all need someone who will provide it so we can improve, grow and advance.

The importance of feedback comes from the fact that, essentially, it’s a valuable input that helps us make better decisions. Some even go one step further and claim it’s a gift. Well, no matter what you decide to call it, it’s undeniably a useful piece of information that helps you recognize both your strengths and weaknesses. You just need to be open to it and willing to accept it in order to make the most out of it.

Think of it as a second opinion you might otherwise need to pay for. After all, receiving feedback ultimately means someone invested their time and expertise to help your performance go off the charts. If you look at it from this angle, the gift theory makes all the more sense. 

Now that we’ve cleared this up, make sure to take a moment before you turn defensive next time feedback comes your way. Stop for a second, recognize the value of it, review it, and use it to:

  • learn how to look at things from a different point of view
  • identify your strengths
  • improve your skills
  • learn more about your weaknesses (that’s ok, we all have them 🙂)
  • improve and optimize your work process
  • avoid making the same mistakes next time you get assigned a similar task
  • get up to speed faster
  • get better results

Now that we’ve established this, let’s have a look at its benefits in the workplace. After all, that’s where we spent most of our time.

The importance of feedback in the workplace

The fact is, we’re all sensitive to hearing about our shortcomings. And we tend to do whatever we can to avoid it. Especially in the workplace. After all, who would want to be reminded of their imperfections when you can enjoy the bliss of ignorance. You might even think you dodged the bullet every time you get by with no feedback. Well, we hate to break it to you, but there’s no better way to shoot yourself in the foot than by running away from it.

Sure, getting feedback can be overwhelming at first, but look at the bigger picture. Workplace feedback actually helps both the employers and the employees to become more self-aware. It gives everyone a well-rounded view of their performance and helps them find the right way to achieve their goals. And, as it turns out, we all need all the help we can get to figure out how to improve our performance and advance in our careers. So don’t let fear prevent you from getting it. 

In fact, to get the most out of feedback in the workplace, you need to stop looking at it as something that just needs to be done or accepted before you move on to the next project. Instead, use it as an opportunity to:

  • motivate and break bad habits
  • clarify expectations
  • learn continuously, both about our strengths and our weaknesses
  • build and increase confidence 
  • improve personal growth and development
  • boost performance 

But don’t stop there. If you have a chance, make sure to seek feedback even from your clients and customers. 

The importance of customer and client feedback

No doubt there are far more pleasant things in this world than receiving feedback from your customers and clients. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s the most valuable thing you will receive from them. So whatever you do, don’t dismiss it or avoid it. Analyze it and find out how your customers and clients feel about your product/service and company. Take their negative feedback as a friendly reminder you need to change something. Let their feelings and opinions guide you and show you how to further improve the quality of your products or services.

Bear in mind your business won’t go forward as long as your reaction to the feedback is – “No one else has complained so far”. So don’t bury your head in the sand and hope their complaint will magically resolve itself. After all, your customers will speak their minds publicly on social media even if you don’t want to hear them out in private. 

Feedback is not your enemy 

Much like beauty, feedback comes in all kinds of shapes and forms. Sometimes you ask for it; other times it arrives unsolicited. Sometimes it’s given one-on-one, other times it’s given in public. But keep in mind that open, honest, and constructive feedback is not your enemy. However, your inability to accept it and understand it in the right way might be. 

So this seems like the right time to say goodbye to the old ways and to assume a different approach next time you find yourself on the receiving end of the feedback. Don’t let fear of criticism get in your way of pursuing improvement. Instead, face it, embrace it, and take it as a learning experience no matter what kind of feedback it is.

And don’t forget: don’t take it to heart. Remember what’s been said; it’s nothing personal.