Positive feedback is rare and precious and you need to make sure you treat it as such. It’s rare because we tend to take good behavior for granted. There are many “no news is good news” leaders out there. Energy gets directed into fixing bad behaviour rather than into reinforcing good behaviour.
Favorable feedback is also rare because when we do get positive sentiment, it tends to come in the form of vanilla, non-descript praise, rather than specific, useful feedback.
So if you do get a serving of the rare delicacy of positive feedback, here’s how to accept it in a way that demonstrates your gratitude, ensures you take the right message away, and increases your likelihood of receiving more.
Accepting positive feedback
1. Convert praise into feedback.
If you get a vague statement like “that was a great presentation,” ask questions to find out exactly what was great about it. “Thanks, what specifically did you like about the presentation?” or “What should I keep doing?”
Purpose: Find out what exactly you should be trying to repeat.
2. Ask about impact.
As I said in my previous post, there are many, many alternative explanations for a single piece of feedback. Understanding why an approach worked can provide insight into your success and give you a sense of who would like your approach and who might not. “I’m glad you liked my direct style. What did you see as the impact of being so direct with these difficult messages?”
Purpose: Understand why your approach worked for that person.
3. Test the limits.
What works and doesn’t work is very situational. While you have the person on your side, try getting a feel for where your approach might be less successful. “I’m so glad my direct approach worked with you in this meeting. Do you have any suggestions about where this direct approach might not be as effective?” or “Who might have had a different reaction to my style?”
Purpose: Get insight about where your approach will and won’t work.
4. Say thank you.
This is not the moment to be sheepish and modest. Someone is giving you positive feedback and you want to make them feel great about that. Look them in the eye. Say “thank you. It means a lot to hear this from you.”
Purpose: Avoid having a happy moment turn into something awkward.
When someone takes the time to give you specific, meaningful feedback about something you did, it’s important to really suck all the value out of it. Don’t just blush and say “gosh” or “shucks.” Be curious and learn all you can from someone who is already showing they are an ally.