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Life Kit: Steps To Make Receiving Feedback Easier

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Let's face it - getting feedback at work can be stressful. It can be hard to know what to take seriously and what can be ignored. Luckily, Julia Furlan of NPR's Life Kit is here with some tips to make the process of receiving feedback a little less of a roller coaster.

JULIA FURLAN, BYLINE: One of the scariest things a person could ever say to me is, hey, can I give you a little feedback? Maybe that gives you an icy sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, too.

SHANITA WILLIAMS: So oftentimes we sit in these conversations and we're just like, hurry up, hurry up, hurry up. We don't say anything.

FURLAN: Grin and bear it, just like sort of like silent. Don't even breathe.

WILLIAMS: Yep. I'm going to take it. Take it. Take it. OK, I'm taking it in.

FURLAN: That's Shanita Williams, who's a feedback coach, a professor and the author of a book called the "Feedback Mentality." And she's here to make the scary stuff less scary today. Williams's advice is all about learning to filter the feedback that you get so that you only incorporate the stuff that's actually worthwhile. And I love it because it's super easy to remember. In order to make sure the feedback that you're receiving is worth taking in, Williams says you have to SIFT it. That's S-I-F-T. S stands for source.

WILLIAMS: Who is this coming from? Is this from somebody I trust, or is it coming from a complete stranger? If it is somebody I trust, I put more weight in that.

FURLAN: And the next letter in the acronym is I, which stands for impact.

WILLIAMS: Is this something that is life-changing, or is it just simply changing the color of my shoes?

FURLAN: When you're considering the impact, it's a question of scale. Is this going to shift the entire axis of your work life, or is this just something small? The next one is frequency. When you're receiving feedback, think about how often you're hearing it.

WILLIAMS: Is this just I heard it once in a lifetime or I'm hearing this every week? It helps you start to see the urgency with which this behavior is showing up in your life.

FURLAN: If you're getting feedback and it's happening over and over again, maybe do a long think before discarding it.

WILLIAMS: And that's why I like to call feedback information, because I say, like, what do we do with the rest of the information? You know, we use it as a data point. And you get to decide what you want to do.

FURLAN: And just a side note, feedback that is racist or sexist or biased in any way isn't feedback. So our final stop on the acronym express is T, which stands for trends.

WILLIAMS: Is this showing up just at work, or is it at home or school? Is it right in the community? Where else are you hearing that?

FURLAN: Trends helps you put the feedback in a larger context. You can control what to do with it, of course. But if you're hearing that you're late to every single work meeting and your best friend gave you a big speech about how you were late to her birthday party, that might be a trend worth listening to. So the next time you're getting ready for that annual review or your boss asks you to close the door when you have a meeting, try not to freeze and remember to SIFT. Consider the source, the impact, the frequency and the trends.

WILLIAMS: And if you can pull all of that insight together, it's not a foolproof process, but it helps you be more intentional about thinking about, should I hold on to this, or is this something I can simply let go?

FURLAN: For NPR News, I'm Julia Furlan.

MARTIN: There is more advice about feedback from Life Kit, including how to give better feedback. Just head to npr.org/lifekit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.