Pixabay, Public Domain
Source: Pixabay, Public Domain

It’s hard to get criticized: We tend to get defensive, even defending the indefensible. We may globalize a criticism from the specific to “I’m a loser.” And even if we’re rational about it, it feels a heck of a lot better to be praised than criticized.

Yet feedback, of course, is key to our growing. So if we care to improve ourselves, we must gird ourselves to endure the short-term pain of risking reaming for the long-term gain in professional and personal efficacy. At our best, we seek out feedback from respected bosses, coworkers, supervisees, and people in our personal lives.

The app SurveyMonkey’s free version allows you to get anonymous answers to up to 10 multiple-choice or open-ended questions. You can make up your own questions or use Survey Monkey’s suggestions.

Sometimes, it’s wiser to ask a person directly. Worded properly, it can be impressive that you’re open to growing, even if it means risking painful criticism.

Sample questions

In either case, whether you are asking for anonymous or identified feedback, here are some sample wordings of questions. Of course, in your individual case, it may be wise to adapt or scrap these in favor of your own:


"Like any professional, I’m always trying to grow. So, I’m sending this survey to which you reply anonymously. I’ve been your counselor, so I’m wondering what I’ve done that has been particularly helpful and not. I’d appreciate your candor of course."

"What letter grade, from A to F, would you give my performance as a manager? What’s something good and something bad that I do? I welcome your focusing on things I could improve but I’m also open to hearing what seem to be permanent characteristics."

"You know I respect your judgment. Like all decent professionals, I’m trying to grow. As my coworker (supervisee, or boss), you’ve seen my work and probably heard what others have to say about me. Anything bad or good, you’d like to tell me?”


"I’ve been dating for a while and often it seems the other person, like you, quickly says something like, “I don’t think we’re quite right for each other.” Is there any constructive feedback you can offer so I can improve?”

"It seems that the family is merely perfunctory in their interactions with me. If I want better relations, is there anything you think I should do differently?”

"We’ve been friends a long time so you know me quite well. I feel like I’m getting stale, kind of in  stasis. I’d like to grow. Anything you suggest I do more of or do differently?"


The usual first reaction to criticism is to resist it or catastrophize it. That may be unavoidable but what is malleable is your second reaction: After a deep breath, it’s time to remind yourself that feedback is a gift, key to your growth.

But not all feedback is worth implementing. Sometimes, it’s off-base, because it’s incorrect or because the person’s response reflects a desire to suck up to you or to unreasonably hurt you. To discern what feedback is worth acting on, ask yourself:

  • Does the feedback seem reasonable?
  • Does it comport with what you think of yourself and what others think of you?
  • Is it likely improvable?  If not, should you accept that and just try to put yourself in environments that accentuate your strengths and skirt that immutable weakness?

The takeaway

It’s not easy for any of us to implement the above. Despite our claiming to be open to suggestions, most of us prefer praise. But perhaps this article can help make that uncomfortable, often scary but important task a little easier and more beneficial.

I read this aloud on YouTube.

This is the third in a four-part series. The first is 10 Self-Improvement Musts. The second is 12 Self-Improvement Books. The final one is Journaling for Personal Growth should be published late tomorrow night.

Finding the courage to solicit, curate, & act on it without undue defensiveness.
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