What makes receiving feedback so hard? The process strikes at the tension between two core human needs—the need to learn and grow, and the need to be accepted just the way you are.
That’s from a Harvard Business Review article on finding the coaching in criticism, and the authors provide some excellent strategies for responding to criticism even when it hits our emotional triggers.
Beyond their suggestions, you might also think of criticism and feedback — all of it, whether you’re giving or getting — as a form of acknowledgement: the people giving you feedback are saying that you’re worth their time, that what you do actually matters to them. In receiving feedback, even when it feels at first listen like it’s little more than abuse, you can look for what impact you have on your critic (or at least what impact your critic perceives you to have). For the harshest criticism, that might give you a starting point for empathy; for more ordinary feedback, it might even make you feel good that you matter to that person.
And when it comes time to give feedback, you can keep the concept of acknowledgement in mind. Forget about the compliment sandwich. Acknowledgement is acknowledging what’s so, without any bull, and at the same time expressing appreciation. That needs to be honest. (If you find that you’re not able to say what’s so with appreciation, even in a small way, it’s probably not a good time to be giving feedback.) Through acknowledgement, it might be possible to support both the need to grow and the need to be accepted, all at the same time.