I Don’t Want to Hear It! How to Accept Constructive Feedback

Feedback is a necessary component of the internship experience. At the heart of an internship is learning, and you can’t learn from the experience if you don’t receive feedback – both positive and constructive – on your performance.

Feedback is tricky, especially constructive feedback. I remember as an undergraduate orientation leader going through several training sessions on giving and receiving feedback. We were even forced to give both positive and constructive feedback to our peers during one meeting just to practice. While the positive was easy, the constructive was not. Who wants to hear what they’re not doing well, and who wants to be the one to say it?

Learning to gracefully accept constructive feedback during your internship is a key skill to gain. Here are some ways to get there:

  • Listen. Listen without comment. Ask questions if you need some clarification. While it’s natural to get defensive, don’t go there. Rarely is feedback given perfectly – few of us our trained in how to give feedback well. And even if someone is trained, it’s still hard to get it right every time. Feedback might get to you emotionally, but this doesn’t mean that it’s bad – likely, it means that it has hit a real issue. Try your best to thank the person for the feedback, and consider it a gift intended to help you grow professionally.
  • Use the Feedback in a Positive Way. First, you may need some time recognize and/or validate the message for yourself. Make note of the feedback and spend a couple of days monitoring your behavior and others’ reactions to it. Do you observe what the feedback giver has observed? From there, work on whatever it is you need to work on. You might even wish to seek support from a co-worker as you make the changes, such as asking him/her to remind you if you start slipping up. As you change, though, don’t assume that you’re now perfect. Assess your work by following up on the feedback. Keep the discussion going by asking what more you could be doing to improve. However…
  • Don’t Dwell on the Negative. Once you have heard the message, considered it, and taken steps towards better practices, move on. Don’t carry around resentment or hurt feelings. Find ways to be good to yourself outside of the workplace: go out for dinner, participate in an activity you enjoy, etc. Have a support system outside of work to help you maintain a sense of balance in your life.

When receiving constructive feedback, it can be all too easy to get angry and to overreact. Resist the urge to do this, though. Receiving feedback is a major way of knowing whether or not you are growing as a professional. If you react negatively, people will be reluctant to provide feedback to you in the future and you might miss out on valuable professional development as a result.


What constructive feedback have you received at work, at an internship, or in the classroom? How did you work with the feedback you were given?

Photo by woodley wonderworks


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