Saturday, April 16, 2011

How to Receive (and Give) Feedback

It's that time of year - businesses are doing their annual self-evaluations and reviews, and everyone is nervous about getting feedback on their performance. But as an Etsy seller (or any self-employed business owner), feedback doesn't come just once a year - it's a daily process. Whether you're asking for critiques in the forums, or you're receiving feedback from your customers on the products they purchased, or you're being asked to give your opinion on something, you're constantly exposed to feedback. As we all know, feedback can be both positive and negative, but it's always the negative criticism that makes us cringe and become defensive. Ironically, it's also the type of criticism that helps us learn from our mistakes the most and become better at what we do and who we are. Knowing how to give and receive feedback is a precious skill that few of us have, but it's something definitely worth learning how to do.

I recently spoke to Melinda who just started a blog where she showcases successful Etsy shops. She received requests from many sellers, and given her strict guidelines on what she was looking for, not all shops made the cut. For the ones that she rejected, she actually spent quite some time going through them and giving them a review on certain things that they can improve. Most sellers welcomed her feedback and were grateful that she spent time doing it, but others were not as nice. As I was reading about Melinda's frustrations, it got me thinking. Why were some people so appalled? Isn't this a great way of learning how to improve your shop and make it better? Why take is so personally?

A few days later I came across an article in Psychology Today about feedback, and it all started to make sense! I learned a few interesting fact too. Apparently, there are separate circuits in our brains that handle information - one for positive and one for negative phenomena. The negative information sticks the most, and no matter how many great and positive compliments you get, you always remember that one minor critique! Due to our sensitivity to negative feedback, sometimes we "see" criticism where it doesn't exist, because we tend to overthink other people's comments or remarks. And it all comes down to one thing - fear of exclusion. Once you recognize this, you can become better at accepting and giving feedback.

So, you ask, how can you make this work? If you are giving feedback, were you asked to? Nobody welcomes unsolicited negative feedback, but if they asked you for it, they are more susceptible to receive it. Try to use questions when giving feedback as a way of walking the recipient through the problem and making them feel part of a discussion. Think about whether you are "eligible" to give feedback in their eyes. If they don't see you as a qualified authority, it will only bring more negativity. And finally, don't be angry when you provide criticism - be nice and calm. If you are on the receiving end, take a deep breath! It's not going to be easy, but try not to take it personally, and really think about what you're hearing. Learn from it! And although it's hard to hear it, ask for feedback as much as you can!


  1. WOW! This is a fascinating post, and I'm so glad I read it! It is rarely easy to receive criticism, but it is almost always that criticism that drives me to improve. Thanks for a thoughtful post!

  2. Thanks, Andrea! I thought it was ver relevant to Etsy too since everyone is constantly asking for a critique or trying to figure out how to improve their shop. It's important to have an open mind and remember that it's not always personal :)



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