Feeling Embarrassed when Receiving Positive Feedback?
A colleague approaches you and says:
“Thank you so much for your help last week with X project. We’d been struggling with inaccurate data for months and the accuracy of your metrics really helped.”
You are glad to receive positive feedback, but you feel uncomfortable with positive feedback. You just say “thank you” and you want to end the conversation as soon as possible. Did you just miss an opportunity to learn about your strengths? Do you really understand why or how your work helped them? If you look at the statement, it does not say: “by having accurate metrics we were able to do XYZ, which means ABC was faster/easier.” What is the best way to respond when receiving positive feedback?
How you can respond when someone gives you positive feedback?
1. Why / How was it helpful?
A lot of people feel less embarrassed if they are told exactly why and how their help had a positive feedback. We all like to know the outcome. We know what we’ve done (the output: e.g. provided accurate metrics) but what did this do for them exactly? If they have not given you the details yet, you can say: “Thank you for letting me know it has helped. Would you be able to tell me more about what those accurate metrics did to help you? What was the outcome for you?” Most people, however, don’t ask this as they are too embarrassed and worry it might come across as fishing for compliments. If it makes you feel more comfortable, say: “I’m interested in the impact it had, would you be able to tell how the new metrics helped you?”
2. Take this as an opportunity to learn about your strengths.
What exactly did they say they liked about what you did or how you helped them? Was the feedback specific enough for you to be able to tell exactly what strengths this indicates you have and what behaviours you should display more often?
“That was excellent” is not good enough feedback (see this 1-minute-read article for more details of an example of excellent positive feedback), you need more specifics than that to be able to use this as a tool to build on your skills. “What was it that you liked about X?”
3. This is also an opportunity to learn something about how you could refine or further improve your performance.
If you feel able to, you can also say: “Do you have any suggestions of what I could have done to be even more helpful / useful?” or “What do you think I could do differently next time?”.