Understanding the change journey & the Art of Receiving Feedback

Understanding the change journey & the Art of Receiving Feedback

Please give me feedback, NOT!

In this article You will learn the journey we all take when confronted with change and pick up ideas on how to handle receiving feedback.

“Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger” (Franklin P Jones)

The emotional journey of change

The transitional curve (above) is a useful tool for explaining what is happening to us when we are criticised and/or confronted with a need to change. Understanding the natural process we will go through will help us to move on.

Change is constant and whilst in an ideal world we would develop a mentality of Constant Evolution which will reduce dramatically the need for radical change, we all know that the ideal world does not exist for most of us. Understanding what is happening when we are asked to change will prepare you well for grasping and benefiting from it.

The Transitional Curve journey


  • Surprise – as a result of feedback or information received
  • In some cases, feelings of panic
  • Mismatch between expectations and reality


  • Denial that change is necessary – “I’m doing alright”
  • Withdrawal, blocking – “I’m happy with the way I am” – “I’ve had no complaints so far…”
  • Rationalising:  “There’s a reason why I do it like that”
  • False competence – “this is easy” – “so what’s new…I’ve seen it all before”

Blame Others

  • Feeling under attack – ‘picked on’
  • Projection – “It’s not my fault…if only……”
  • ” You don’t know what it’s like to work here”


  • That change is necessary
  • Understanding own incompetence
  • Feeling angry with self – maybe blame self – “It’s my fault” –  “I can’t do this… and will never be able to understand / change”


  • A feeling of being stuck – “I don’t know what to do…..how to get out of this”
  • Like being in ‘white water rapids’
  • Feeling uncomfortable, low


  • Of reality – “So here I am, what am I going to do about it?
  • Letting go of past comfortable attitudes


  • Setting goals, gathering data, identifying options – to find a way forward
  • Experimenting and testing – new skills and different approaches
  • Practice phase – successes and failures – learning from both


  • Of new skills / behaviour
  • High self confidence

If we accept the points above then we can consider how best to respond to the natural process of change and buck the trend by accepting the initial feedback in a more positive way.

Try to receive the feedback using the principles below. You will find that not only do you suffer less stress; you will also progress to integration of change more rapidly.

Some principles for receiving feedback

  •  Listen and show that you are listening.
  • Ask for examples.  “You said you find me passive sometimes.  Can you give me an example?”
  • Make sure you understand what the person is telling you.
  • Don’t rationalise, argue, or get defensive.  “But I can explain why I do that”. “What you don’t realise is….”.  Your reasoning may be logical, but it does not alter the impact your behaviour has on someone.
  • Let people finish what they are trying to say.  They do not always find it easy to say what they really want to say.
  • Treat feedback as a gift – thank the giver.
  • Be positive in your response – encourage people to give you more.
  • Encourage people to be balanced with their feedback – ask them what was good, what they liked, as well as what they would like you to improve

Active listening techniques and reminders

  • Ensure you are in the right environment
  • Meet somewhere conducive to good listening; avoid interruptions, undue noise.
  • Prepare yourself to listen
  • Still your body (don’t fidget) and your mind (be calm, open and focus on them).  Clear your mind of other things – these can be distractions and barriers to effective listening.  Don’t doodle, tap, shuffle papers, or permit phone calls.  Put the talker at ease.  Help your colleague to feel they are free to talk and that you have time to listen.
  • Be interested
  • Stay interested in the person and what they have to say.  Show them that you are listening.  Use non-verbal signals (look at them; encourage them with your body language) as well as verbal signals (such as summarising, clarifying and acknowledging their points).  Genuine interest encourages people to talk.
  • Do not interrupt
  • Allow your colleague to finish his/her sentences.  Show that you put more value on what they have to say, not what you have to say.  Put your thoughts to one side and focus on the other person’s.
  • Listen for what is not said
  • Often the things people don’t say will be as important as, if not more important, than, the things they do.  “Listen” to their body language, their eyes.  What do these things tell you?  Listen also to how things are being said:  tone, speed of delivery and emphasis, inflections in the voice and hesitations are all important clues to how they are feeling. Ask yourself, “What is not being said?”.
  • Use silence
  • Be comfortable with silence; it is one of the most effective ways to encourage others to talk.  Silence also gives people space to say those things that they find most difficult to express.
  • Avoid making Judgments
  • Try to suspend judgment and listen in a non-evaluative way.  Judge the content of a message rather than the person sending it.
  • Avoid Assumptions
  • Don’t make assumptions about what is being said; don’t assume that you understand; avoid jumping to conclusions before you have heard and fully understood the message.

If you can embrace this theory you will be well placed to benefit from Receiving Feedback.

  1. WOW – Fabulous content!

  2. WOW – What amazing content!

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