How to Receive Unsolicited Feedback


Does this scenario ring a bell?

You are jovially walking to your desk and minding your own business when someone stops you in the hallway and innocently gives you some advice (insert something that strikes a personal cord, accidentally slams your ego/intellect, etc.).  Boom.

Wait…what just happened?

It’s the ol’ case of unsolicited feedback.


Those situations can take your breath away.  Or might make you upset. Or might hurt your feelings.  And you are absolutely entitled to feel those things, but let’s also use this unsolicited feedback as an opportunity to improve yourself and your career.

But how on earth do we do that?!  Here are some simple humbling and effective ways to receive unsolicited feedback in a polite and productive way:

  • Listen actively. You know the drill.  Maintain eye contract. Unfold your arms.  Refrain from interrupting them.  Seek clarification if you are unclear of what they are suggesting – as that will show your responsiveness to what they have said, while addressing it immediately.  

  • Refrain from being defensive.  This.  Is. Hard.*  If you disagree with what they are saying, take a breath ( and keep your voice at the same decibel as usual) and explain your point of view – and why you might do things a certain way.  Avoid making excuses, as that is one form of being defensive. Just be receptive to listening to their perspective, even if you fundamentally don’t agree with the feedback at first glance.

  • Give them grace.  More than likely, they are simply trying to help you, help on a project or help the organization.   The other person is presumably not trying to pick on you or make you feel badly about yourself. They are probably feeling a bit uncomfortable about giving feedback as well – even if they seem calm and cool about it.  But even if someone is giving you the feedback as a way to make you look terrible (potentially as a result of their own insecurities), be the bigger person and accept it as a way to improve yourself.
  • Showcase Gratitude…(even if you don’t agree with it).  Thank them for taking time out of their busy schedule to give some tips.  That person cares about you enough to provide guidance on how to improve yourself and/or your career.   The giver of feedback may not remember the middle of the conversation or even what they wanted to help you with, but they will certainly remember how you ended the conversation with appreciation – and simple gratitude will go a long way in your career.

  • Reflect on the Feedback.  Did they have a point?  Could you work on that one thing?  Often our most dreaded imperfections can come to light when we are working with others.  And sometimes we aren’t even aware of imperfections until someone brings it to our attention – this is that someone.  So, take some time and consider if/how you could make some productive changes to the way you conduct yourself at the workplace.

Receiving unsolicited feedback is just another way of being coachable.

Being coachable gives people the flexibility to be open to learning new ways to thrive.  

Being coachable showcases people who are continually striving for success.  

Being coachable furnishes people with the wisdom they need to become more effective.

So, open yourself up to being coachable and you will be amazed at all of the nuggets of wisdom that you will receive!!!


* This takes an unbelievable amount of courage and grace.  It won’t happen overnight. To this day, when I receive unsolicited constructive criticism I instantaneously break out into hives. Awesome.