You’ll Take It and Like It

The title here contains a little twist on conventional meaning. In literature and cinematic conflicts (like one of my favorites: The Maltese Falcon), you’ll encounter this phrase when someone in a stronger position enforces acceptance on someone in a weaker position – in other words: Whatever I dish out, “you’ll take it and like it.”

In this piece, however, I’m talking instead about eager receptivity, and I’m referring specifically to feedback. I’m suggesting that when you hear a comment that’s valuable and true regarding your work and your life, even if it’s somewhat hard to swallow, you train yourself to take it and like it.  

This is important because honest, accurate feedback is one of the most helpful ways you can learn about yourself and obtain clues or outright suggestions on how you can improve. If you never listen to feedback, you’ll remain stuck in your own head, potentially duping yourself into believing you’re crushing it. Generally, you’ll have a hard time finding avenues to get better.

But if you train yourself to take feedback and like it – with all appropriate filters and safeguards, of course – you’ll benefit from a steady stream of ideas and information that can help guide you toward bolstering your weaknesses and capitalizing on your strengths. 

Here’s how to do it:

Go to the Best Sources

Feedback can be very helpful and important, but it can also vary widely in both relevance and quality. You are probably not the “total moron” that a stranger may characterize you to be. But if your close friends who have seen you in action suggest you are too unwilling to change or too closed off from new experiences, there’s a chance they may be right.

The first step in “taking it and liking it,” therefore, must always be to evaluate the source of the feedback.

The best feedback tends to come from people who:

  • Know you well, although above a certain threshold of familiarity, the people who know you best do not necessarily provide the best feedback,
  • Have your best interests at heart and want to see you succeed,
  • Are willing to be honest with you, at least at the moment you ask for feedback, and
  • Have earned your respect and confidence.

Even these people, however, may be able to offer useful feedback only in limited areas of your work and your life, and only if they have been paying close enough attention.

Open Your Heart and Mind

The best feedback in the world can do nothing helpful if it bounces off a wall of defensiveness and rigidity.

The second step in “taking it and liking it,” therefore, must always be to listen carefully with an open heart and mind. It’s a mistake to try and find fault with well-sourced feedback, particularly if you start rejecting it without even waiting to hear the whole comment. 

The better way to open your heart and mind is to:

  • Listen quietly to the entire comment, and acknowledge that you’ve heard it,
  • Get in sync with the person giving you feedback and try to see yourself from their point of view,
  • Look for and accept any kernels of truth in the feedback, along the lines of “Well, maybe I do that” or “sometimes I may seem that way.”
  • Ask questions to clarify the feedback details, including specific situations in which the feedback most applies,
  • Restate the feedback in your own words and get confirmation to be sure you understand it accurately.

It’s also helpful to thank the person giving you the feedback and ask if another time you can have more.

Contemplate Change

Once you’ve heard and understood the honest feedback from a trustworthy source, the ball is in your court. You now have the opportunity to learn from it.

The third step in “taking it and liking it,” therefore, involves trying to make some use of what you’ve been told.

At a minimum, you can simply “take it” into your own mind (in particular, the brain cells where you store your self-image) that some people, sometimes, may perceive you to be this certain way. This new perception alone may be enough to help you embrace the information contained in the feedback.

But you can go further and “like it” by reflecting more deeply on “what it all means,” and by making a concerted effort to change for the better.

When I was younger, for example, my large size and forceful personality led me to intimidate and overpower too many of the people I knew, including some of those I liked. That did not comport with how I viewed myself. When I finally embraced honest feedback about this trait, I became more aware of my daunting behavior and began dialing myself way down.

These days, I come across to others (my more recent feedback suggests) as warmer, more open and flexible. As before, I get cooperation from others a good deal of the time, and now I also benefit from people more readily liking me.

Obviously, some of the feedback you receive can be wrong, biased, or poorly timed. But honest feedback from your trusted family, friends, and colleagues can contain straightforward information or kernels of truth you can fruitfully accept and utilize as a framework for self-improvement.

The key to getting the most benefit from how others perceive you, of course, is to ask for relevant feedback, and then take it and like it.

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