The No. 1 Way to Tell The Difference Between Good and Bad Feedback

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
April 13, 2024 at 3:14PM UTC

We’ve all been the recipients of feedback in a professional context. Unfortunately, not all feedback is “good” — in that it’s not very helpful. There’s constructive criticism, which gives you a clear path to improvement. But then there’s what we might call “bad” feedback.

What separates the good from the bad, when it comes to feedback? The no. 1 reason is this: good feedback is actionable, and bad is not.

In other words, it’s not whether the feedback is positive or negative. It’s the delivery. Does the person giving the feedback make concrete suggestions about how to improve? Or are they just insulting you? Is it clear, or is it vague? It could even be coming from a good place and still, ultimately, be bad feedback. 

Either way, it’s important to understand what you’re hearing and respond appropriately.

How to respond to good feedback.

It’s probably not all that difficult to know how to respond to praise — all it usually takes is an enthusiastic “Thank you!” 

When you’ve received good constructive criticism — typically a blend of praise for what you’re doing well and actionable advice — you might feel a little conflicted. It’s natural to feel a little defensive when you hear that some of your work needs improvement, but this is a given. We’ve already received constructive criticism, and hopefully, we’ve taken it in stride.

Just as the person who delivered the feedback was specific, you should be, too. For example, you might say, “Thanks so much for the feedback. I’m so glad to hear that I’m on track with [positive thing], and I appreciate your thoughts on [negative thing].”

If you have questions, feel free to ask them — do they have any ideas about how you can improve? You could also check in on your progress, once you’ve started working to address their thoughts.

How to respond to bad feedback.

Bad feedback is a little more difficult to respond to. You want to remain gracious and professional, of course, but it’s hard to know what to say. 

If there is truly nothing you can find of value in the feedback, you can simply say, “Thanks for the advice. I appreciate it.”

But there could be some nuggets of truth mixed in. If that’s the case, try to make the most of it. You might, for instance, ask them to clarify a point: “I appreciate your feedback. I’m curious about [such-and-such point]. Could you give me an example of what you meant by [X]?”

Either way, this is an opportunity to reflect on yourself and your work. Even if you received “bad” feedback, you can still learn something from it. Perhaps it will give you a chance to think about ways to improve yourself professionally. In fact, see this as a place to dig deep and take an honest look at yourself.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.

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