Learning to Take Third Party Feedback Regardless of the Source

Posted on August 31, 2013 by


Everyone has an opinion about everything it seems.  It can be particularly frustrating when those opinions come in the form of candid, constructive feedback from a third-party.  The frustration is rooted in not knowing the intentions of the third-party in providing such feedback – is it based on observation or speculation, is it intended to help or hinder….It becomes a matter of whether the source is friend or foe.  Part of personal and leadership development is learning how to take third-party feedback regardless of the source or the intention.

When we ask others for help or assistance, we have to be prepared to hear things that we may not want to hear.  These crucial conversations are instigated by a need we have to improve, fix or course correct a situation, resolve self-doubt and lack of confidence, or to simply reassure that one is headed in the right direction rather than chasing a red hearing. We owe them the courtesy of expressing both our appreciation for their willingness to give us feedback as well as our intentions to act on their advice.

When unsolicited feedback is received, several factors need to be taken into consideration – the source, the intent and the message.  Understanding the source of the feedback can inform the intent, the message and whether there is any value to be abstracted.  Applying a black box to the source that focuses on who they are in relation to you, your position and the issue or problem they are providing feedback about allows the receiver to provide context (intent) to the person providing the feedback.  Finally, look closely at the message.  Regardless of the source, there may be some value present.  Determine that value based on the source and the intent.  It never hurts to share the feedback with trusted sources within your network such as a mentor, to help further evaluate and determine the utility of the message.

A third-party perspective can often provide clarity to an issue or situation from a “watcher’s point of view”.  They are not as emotionally vested in the solution or as emotionally rooted in the problem.  The value of the feedback must be determined based on the ability to discern the intent of the source.  Further, when the feedback is solicited, it is a matter of courtesy to express gratitude and advise what your next steps are going to be.  Everyone has an opinion about everything, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that those opinions are valid, misguided or worth being shared.  Your challenge is to know the difference and be able to mine the diamonds from the dirt.