There is only one acceptable response when someone gives you feedback: “Thank You.”

The alternative to them telling you how they feel is them not telling you, which I can assure you is far worse. Unfortunately, gratitude is not the instinctive response for most of us. Instead most of us resort to defense. We combat the feedback, deflect it, or abdicate responsibility entirely. That’s a very human response but one worth fighting against.

Let’s consider two possible types of feedback separately: feedback we agree with and feedback we do not.

We all intuitively understand the value of feedback we agree with but it can still be a struggle to accept it. In fact, I find accurate feedback is sometimes the hardest to take because we should have known better and still got things wrong. A voice inside of us compels us to look for any loophole to invalidate the feedback rather than admit we violated one of our own principles. Critiques of this nature can force us to consider whether or not we are living up to our own standards, and we generally judge ourselves much more harshly than others.

The bigger surprise to me is how often we often fail to understand that there is equal value in feedback we do not agree with. Even if the substance of the criticism is uncertain, the perception of it is not. The person sharing how they see you is absolutely an authority on that matter. So when someone tells you something you don’t believe to be true about yourself, instead of challenging them you should be working to understand what they observed that lead them to their conclusion. You can be assured they aren’t the only one who has done the same. That’s a gift because now you get to choose to change your behavior to achieve different results. Or not, but at least it will be a conscious choice you get to make thanks to them.

The reason it is so important to realize that all feedback is valuable is because it can be very hard to know, when first receiving feedback, which of these two types it is. That can often only be determined with careful introspection, further discussion, and an open mind. At the end of the day the only possible reason someone could be giving you feedback is to help you. Otherwise, why would they bother? And for that, you owe them a debt of gratitude.