The Do’s and Don’ts Of Giving And Receiving Feedback

CRS 50 | Giving And Receiving Feedback


Giving and accepting feedback is necessary for growth. The very purpose of feedback is to gain an understanding of how others perceive what you’re doing. In this episode, Carolyn Rivera talks about how to deliver and receive feedback as she shares some rules that you need to follow. Learn more about these rules as well as some important details like how and when to deliver and respond to feedback and why realistic feedback matter.

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The Do’s and Don’ts Of Giving And Receiving Feedback

I’m going to fill you guys in on a little secret, a tidbit for getting good luck. I’ve been doing this since college, so back in the day. Every first of the month, what you have to do is the first words out of your mouth when you wake up, it has to be rabbit. I don’t know where I got this. I don’t know how it happened, but I’m telling you that I have been focused on this for many years. The first word out of my mouth when I woke up was rabbit. I’m crazy that I say it a couple of times to make sure that those good luck gods have heard it. I’m like, “Rabbit.” My mom follows this process. Every first of the month she texts me a rabbit to show me that she didn’t forget and she said, “Rabbit.” I woke up, I said, “Rabbit.” My month is going to start off fabulous. I want to hear if you are doing this next. Text me, IM me, do whatever. Let me know whether this little tidbit is giving you good luck.

This is another tidbit. This is all about these tips. I put essential oils on the dogs to calm them down. I’m one of those essential oils people. I use them all the time. I love the natural ways. I use doTERRA. There are others out there, but that’s my go-to brand because I’ve done some research and they are 100% oil. A little trick that I learned was that you have to look at the label to see how potent the oils are. Sometimes I talk to people and they say, “I tried the oils, they don’t work.” It’s mainly because the oils aren’t full strength. It’s like anything else. You’ve got to read the label, find out what you are really getting. You can use lavender on your dogs to get them calm and ready for those fireworks. It’s a little tip for you when those fireworks start.

What are we talking about? Our topic is feedback is a gift. In fact, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Sometimes it may feel like to other people that it’s not really that much of a gift. It feels like it’s an issue. We want people to think of feedback as a gift. We’ve got to figure out what we need to do to make it feel like that all the time. Sometimes it could feel hurtful and it could feel like it’s on the verge of bullying. The reality is that feedback is necessary. Getting feedback from others gives us the ability to see things from a different perspective. It gives us the ability to understand someone else’s point of view. It takes those blinders off that we have because not everyone thinks the exact same way. It does come down to the basics of communication and understanding how other people think.

Getting feedback from others gives us the ability to see things from a different perspective. Share on X

What Is Feedback?

First, let’s start by defining what do we mean by feedback? Think of it this way. Feedback is when you get information from someone else on how you’re doing. It’s associated with a specific goal that you’re trying to achieve and it could come from anyone. It could come from your mom on how you did when you cooked dinner the other night. It could come from a friend that watched you deliver a speech. They give you feedback on how they thought that it was that you did, how they perceived it or it could come from your boss on how you’re doing at work. Think about when you receive feedback. The purpose of feedback is to gain an understanding of how others perceive what you’re doing. It varies between people. Some people may read this and say, “That sucked. Carolyn doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” That’s highly unlikely. I hope that I never get that feedback. If you feel that way, go ahead. Go to my website immediately and let me know because I need to understand why you think it wasn’t fabulous. The rest of you may say, “Carolyn does a great job because I love those examples that she uses. They’re real life. It’s something that I can relate to.”

The point is that feedback is individual and it comes from the eyes of the person who’s giving you the feedback. You can get very different opinions from people that see the exact same thing. Think of it this way. Have you ever gone to a movie with someone else? You loved the movie and they hated the movie. You both saw the exact same thing, but it meant something different to each of you. You may have seen something based on your own experiences that person didn’t have or couldn’t relate to. The first thing you must realize with feedback is that it’s individual. If you’re looking to gain a wide variety of opinions, you must get people with all different experiences to provide you with that feedback. That’s how fabulous feedback can be for you. It gives you an opportunity to see things from a different perspective.

CRS 50 | Giving And Receiving Feedback
Plant Your Flag: The Seven Secrets to Winning

I can tell you from experience that feedback is not always easy to take. Let me give you an example. I wrote a book called Plant Your Flag: The Seven Secrets to Winning. When I first thought that I was finished with the book, I sent it out to probably twenty different people to get their opinions. They all provided me with different thoughts. One person loved it. One person thought I should write a whole different book. Still another person said I should have added a few things. The point is that you’re gaining insight from others on how they see things. It’s okay to take the feedback and maybe not even change the things that they told you. Ultimately, you get to decide. The idea of feedback is that we want people to see it as a gift, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like that. Think about a time when you received feedback. How did it make you feel? Does it feel the same way when it comes from people you know and people maybe you don’t know? It could feel very different. The issue is in the delivery or how you perceived the delivery to be. I remember a friend of mine long ago said to me, and I quote, “Don’t ask the question if you don’t want to hear the answer.”

Sometimes feedback is hard because we don’t want to hear it at all. We want people to nod their heads and agree with us, but that’s not valuable. It’s not valuable for our growth. Sometimes feedback is given without people saying anything. For example, if you’re a comedian on stage and you tell a joke and you get absolutely no response from the audience, let me tell you something. That alone tells you what they thought about that joke. That’s feedback that you observed for yourself without anyone ever saying anything to you. Whether you wanted that information or not, you got it. The hardest thing about feedback is not getting defensive or upset after hearing the feedback. You may think things are going great, that everything is perfect, and when you’re told otherwise, you get upset. Maybe it’s the way the person tells you, the words that they choose, the tone that they use. The issue is feedback. It sometimes borders on being totally disrespectful, especially if the person delivering the message does it in the wrong way.

In our times with an online community, people are more apt to say something on social media that they wouldn’t say to your face. I read some of these Facebook posts and I must say that I’m horrified at times. I even think back to when my season of Survivor was on TV and people would feel the need to tell me what they thought of me on TV. Most people said nice things, but there were some that didn’t. Realistically, that isn’t feedback because those one-liners with no context don’t help you at all. They don’t say it because they’re trying to make you better. Don’t get brave and post things on social media thinking you’re providing helpful information because those things don’t help anyone at all. That’s sometimes why people don’t feel like feedback is helpful because they link it back to something that was said to them that was hurtful. Remember, every time you have a specific experience, it’s embedded in your memory and you think of how you felt during that experience. If it was good, that’s great, but if it wasn’t, you’d always feel bad when that happens to you again.

Feedback is hard because of what people say and how they say it. As you think about responding to someone, you’re not in a great frame of mind, first, take a deep breath and stop. Wait until you can provide valuable feedback that can help someone improve. Remember, the goal of feedback is to see how we’re doing against a specific goal. I can remember this one instance long ago when I didn’t even follow my own advice. I was providing an employee with feedback and she was not open to it at all. She got super defensive, which made me angry. We were talking about her performance for the year and things went downhill fast. When she got defensive, I got defensive and the discussion turned into a fight where we both lost. It was an unproductive discussion and one that I still remember over several years ago.

Be open to hearing what other people think. Share on X

My advice is to think of those wise words. Be open to hearing what other people think. When you do, you’re opening your ability to reach more people to understand how you’re being perceived by others and you have the ability to make those adjustments as needed. The choice is yours. We can all look at it in different ways. You can say it to yourself, “I don’t care what other people think,” and go about your business. You can take the information you’re given and make some changes within yourself. Those are your decisions to make, but the point of this discussion is to ensure that you’re open and ready to receive feedback. Get your mind thinking that whatever people say, it’s still your choice to change or not change. It’s better to listen and decide later.

Giving Feedback

How do we make feedback work for you? What is that process? How can we make feedback a process that everyone looks for? It takes work on both sides. The people who deliver the feedback and from the person receiving the feedback. There are certain things that each person needs to consider before anything is talked about. We’re going to talk about a few of those things now and we’ll go into more detail later. Let’s start with the person delivering the feedback. We talked a little bit about the delivery. Specifically, what you need to do when you’re giving feedback is choose your words carefully. You’ve got to understand who you’re giving feedback to. You’ve got to get to know how they think, get to know them because all of those things are important.

Remember, words matter. I can’t stress it enough at this point that words matter, because something may mean one thing to you and something totally different to someone else. Make sure that you choose your words wisely. The ones that will gain the response that you’re looking for, which is to help someone achieve their goal. The tone and the words are the things that you should think about first when you’re giving people feedback if you want them to listen. What’s the point about giving feedback if people don’t listen? You want to make feedback a positive experience. You must be opening to hearing, opening your mind to hearing from others. If you’re the person who’s asking for the feedback, you have to want to hear it when people give it to you.

CRS 50 | Giving And Receiving Feedback
Giving And Receiving Feedback: Understanding how people see us is critical to our growth. We learn so much from others.


Let me give you an example. I always ask for feedback. In fact, on every show that I do, I get my go-to people to provide me with feedback on how they thought the show went. Sometimes I’ll get feedback that I should include something on a topic that I did include. It was part of the show. Instead of saying, “I did that. I talked about that topic in segment three.” You have to understand from their perspective, it wasn’t enough. They missed it or they wanted more information on that specific piece. You will hear from somebody, maybe somebody else, and they thought it was fabulous. It covered everything that they thought it should cover. That’s the value of feedback.

Being able to listen and see how people were able to understand the points that you’re making. For me, it’s the points that I’m making. I can decide if I need to change something going forward. It all links back to your mindset. Are you open to hearing what people think? Are you ready to hear what people think? Remember, don’t ask for feedback until you’re ready to take it all in. Get your mind ready to hear things that you may not want to hear. Don’t ask the question if you don’t want to hear the answer. If you’re getting feedback from the right people, what they’re telling you will help you in the long run. It’ll help you grow.

I was telling you that I asked for feedback about my book. I thought that the book was done. I was happy with the end product. I sent it out for feedback. They all gave me input that told me the book wasn’t done, that I needed to include more stories, things that I had learned, more examples. The book went from fully finished to another year, adding new things and new examples. In the end, those additions to my book made it a better book, even though at the time I was totally frustrated because I wanted it to be done so badly. I wanted to get it published already. I had been working on it for so long. Since that time when I self-published my own book, I have since been picked up by a publisher and my book will re-launch, which is super exciting.

If people could see feedback as a gift, the conversations would be so much easier. Share on X

Receiving Feedback

The best part was that when the publisher looked it over, they didn’t make any additional changes. It was done. By asking for that feedback initially, taking it all in and reading their comments, it made the book better. The goal of feedback is to provide help and support against the goal that you had. Mine was to deliver the best book that I could and the feedback I got helped me do just that. I had to be in the right mind to accept the feedback even when I didn’t want it. That’s what I mean about making feedback work. You have to be ready to hear the feedback even if it’s not what you want to hear at the time. There are many examples that I can give you to get you ready to see feedback as a gift, but it starts with your ability to accept that you aren’t perfect. There’s always room for growth. Learning is an endless ongoing process that we should all embrace. Understanding how people see us is critical to our growth. You learn so much from others. Take it all in and watch yourself reach new heights.

There are some other things that you should also be thinking about when you’re ready to accept this from others. The first thing is that you asked for feedback maybe. At work, maybe sometimes you didn’t, but let’s say that you did. You have your mind ready to listen. Remember, the person sharing the thoughts with you may also feel a little bit uneasy, especially if they’re going to give you feedback or tell you something that they may think that you might not want to hear. For them, it’s a difficult position that they’re in as well. You need to understand that. There are some rules that you need to follow. It’s the same rules for good communication. Start with eye contact. Having an open body language, meaning your arms are not crossed, you’re being open to hearing from others.

Under no circumstances do you interrupt people when they’re giving you feedback. Hear them out, listen attentively, take notes and show interest, these are all the things that are expected of you. You may not fully understand what they’re talking about or how they perceive something. Once they’re done at the end, ask questions, look at your notes and determine the things that you didn’t understand or that need further clarification. Don’t be afraid to ask. Remember, it’s all about how you ask as well. Don’t be defensive. If you don’t ask, you may not fully understand their point of view. Therefore, you’re not going to get the full value of the information given.

CRS 50 | Giving And Receiving Feedback
Giving And Receiving Feedback: If you are truly trying to help someone, then you must provide timely feedback.


Sometimes people are afraid to ask questions but get out of your comfort zone and do it. It will help you in the end. Depending on what you’ve heard and how you feel about it, that’s going to dictate your next step. If the feedback was difficult to hear, you might not want to respond right away. You may not be ready to respond right away. You might be the type of person that needs time to process things. You may need to take the night, think about it and when you’re ready, you can respond. Once you feel as though you understand the feedback, you’ve processed it and you’re ready to respond, you can go ahead and do it. What you do is you look at your notes and you ask for more clarification on specific things that are in your notes.

You couldn’t possibly have gotten every single solitary thing right the first time. I guess you could. It just depends on what the feedback was and how much there is. Either way, look at your notes and determine where there are some gaps and summarize what you’ve heard about the feedback to ensure that you’re both on the same page. Don’t take it personally. If there are things that you don’t agree with, remember these people are trying to help you. They are there to support you and sometimes we’re told things that we don’t want to hear. Sometimes we’re told things that we don’t agree with and that’s fine. People have different opinions. You still get to decide how you use the feedback, whether you take it all in, follow it word for word or you adjust it in some way, it’s up to you.

It definitely depends on who’s giving you the feedback and what you’re getting it from. For example, if your boss is giving you the feedback, you better take it all in and ensure that both of you are on the same or else the outcome is not going to be fabulous. Your boss has the final say. In that respect, you’ve got to listen to them. I would urge you to listen to them whether you agree with it or not, because from their perception things are not going well. They’re giving you this feedback because they want you to do something different. If you’re getting feedback from others, you should also tell them how you plan on using it or if you aren’t going to use the feedback, tell them why not. Think of it this way. They took the time out to provide you with their feedback. They should understand how you’re going to use it or if you decide not to use it, tell them why.

Feedback is a gift that keeps on giving. Share on X

If you leave out this step, they may not be willing to give you feedback in the future. I know that sometimes people feel bad when you don’t use their feedback, but you can all think of a time when you heard someone say, “I don’t know why you asked my opinion because you never do what I say anyway.” That’s their feedback telling you that they’re upset because you haven’t set the expectations right for them. Set those expectations. Tell people that you heard them, tell people that you appreciate that they gave you feedback and tell them why you’re not going to use it at this time. Set those expectations. That’s how you can get people to continue to provide you with that valuable feedback.

How do you get yourself ready to receive feedback? It isn’t always easy, but it’s doable. It’s as uncomfortable it can be delivering the feedback. It all depends on how you perceive the other person will accept the feedback. If you feel like they are not going to take it, you’re going to be more nervous about giving the feedback because no one likes to deliver bad news. Even though feedback is helping the other person improve, the improvement process itself is sometimes difficult. It appears that you’re delivering bad news. It is actually a perception that we need to change. If people could always see feedback as a gift, the conversations would be so much easier. The key to giving effective feedback is to be specific. When you are wishy-washy, you leave room for the other person to get the wrong information. Being specific is not always easy. Have you ever heard someone say to you or have you ever said to your kids, “You need to change your attitude?” What exactly does that mean? How do you change your attitude? What does this new attitude look like?

That is not specific, and thus it leaves the other person room to make changes in what they think attitude means to them, which can be different than what it means to you. When they make this change that they think they’ve done, you see no change at all. In this example, you need to be specific. You need to say something like, “I need you to stop talking back and rolling your eyes at me when I tell you to do something.” That is specific. I know that I’m supposed not to talk back and stop rolling my eyes. There is no other way to interpret that. Step one in giving effective feedback is to be specific. All the focus is on the behavior that you want to be changed.

At work, if you have an employee who makes errors, your feedback may be that they need to check their work before they submit it or have someone else review their documents before they submit it to eliminate the errors. Now they know exactly what they need to do. If you say eliminate the errors, they’re going to try, but they didn’t think they had errors, to begin with. What’s an action that they can take to fix the behavior? It’s behavior change. If you are in a sport and your coach tells you, “You’ve got to improve your batting average,” if you’re in baseball, “How do I improve my batting average? I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.” Maybe it’s you have to wait on the pitch. Don’t swing the bat before the count to ten or whatever the case is. You’ve got to be specific. When you are, you’ll see some different results.

The other thing to consider when giving feedback is to be realistic in what can be changed. You don’t want to give someone feedback on things that are outside of their control because it’s meaningless. They could feel like they’re being picked on because no matter what they do, they can’t change it. That type of feedback is useless. It’s not helping them to succeed. That’s the goal. How can you help them be more effective? How can you help them grow? How can you help them learn new things? Also when you’re giving feedback, own the feedback that you’re giving. If you’re wishy-washy in the way that you deliver it, it feels like you don’t believe the feedback to be true. Have you ever had someone say to you, “That this feedback is from other people, not me? I’m telling it to you because I want to help you.” What’s the context to that? What’s the situation that you’re giving me feedback on if it’s not from you? Why are you giving me this feedback if they don’t believe it to be true? Remember, the point of feedback is to help someone. Even though the conversation may be difficult, you’re helping them. Think of it that way. You’re helping them succeed. If the feedback is worth mentioning, own it as your own or don’t say it at all.

The last thing to consider is the timing of the feedback. If you are truly trying to help someone, then you must provide timely feedback. If you give someone feedback on a thing that happened a few months ago, no one is going to remember the incident. The feedback loses its value. Giving feedback is a growth experience for both of you. When you can give effective feedback, you’re helping someone succeed. Telling people what they want to hear is doing them a disservice. When I’m coaching my clients, I don’t always provide them with things that they enjoy hearing, but I must be honest in how I see things. I must be looking for the things that they are doing that are hindering their ability to achieve their goals. If I told them what they wanted to hear, they would be paying me for nothing. The real value and the excitement for me come from when I talk to my clients after giving them feedback and they were able to take that feedback and share with me examples of how it helped them do things better. That is the true value of feedback and why I say feedback is a gift.

Feedback is a gift. The issue is sometimes we don’t see it that way. We have to have the right mindset to see it as a gift, to understand the value of gaining insight from others perspective and to use that insight to broaden our skill set. Not one of us has all the answers. Nobody does. It’s imperative that we seek the opinions of others. Receiving feedback can be difficult. We can take it personally, especially if the person delivering the message doesn’t do it the right way. Realistically, there are going to be times when that will happen, but you still get to decide how you’ll handle that situation. Will you get defensive or will you take it in stride and use it as a learning experience? That is up to you. You get to decide how you handle that situation. We talked about being attentive, making eye contact and taking notes. One of the things that you should definitely remember is not to interrupt them. Don’t interrupt people while they’re giving you feedback because they’ll get upset. They’ll think that you don’t want to listen to them. After all is said and done, ask questions, get the facts and clarify what you think you heard to ensure that you’re on the right track.

When giving effective feedback, the steps to remember are you’ve got to be specific. You can’t leave things open for interpretation. Focus on the behavior that you think needs to change. Be realistic on the things that are within their control and that they can change. Make sure that the feedback is timely. If we followed these steps for giving and receiving feedback, we would understand that feedback is to help us in the long run and we’ll finally see feedback as a gift. That’s what I’m talking about. Next time, we’ll have another great show for you.

One of the topics that people have been asking me about are steps to write a book. I’ll be talking about that. My show’s focus is on the topics that you are asking for. If you don’t have the information, if I don’t have that information, I will do what I think is best. Give me that feedback. Give me that information because my goal is to provide the content value that you are looking for. If I don’t have it, I’ll find the guest that does. If you’ve missed any of my shows, go to my website at for more context and all of my past shows. Helping you achieve more than you ever thought possible, that’s my specialty. Remember, believe, commit, achieve. That’s the secret sauce that you’re looking for.

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