As we enter the New Year, I thought it fitting to delve into a sensitive subject – how to seek and receive professional feedback. So many of us don’t know how to do this effectively. There is a tendency to immediately get defensive or attempt to rationalize a bad review. Look at this infographic from apparent experts on the subject, for example, and see how many of them suggest that you ignore negative feedback or rationalize it away by judging the integrity of the person offering it to you. It’s no wonder that so many folks fail to recognize that feedback makes you better.

Take a moment and think back on your life. Try to identify the people that truly made a difference to you. Whether, parent, teacher, coach or preacher, they’re all people who gave you feedback. Therefore, learn how to seek and to receive advice and incorporate that feedback loop into your professional repertoire. You will become much stronger in your work and in your life when you do.

Here a few tips to get you started:

1. Ask for feedback! We all have blind spots that others can help to illuminate. Don’t be afraid to seek out advice and opinions on how you’re doing and what you might do to get better at what you do.

2. Ask for more! It’s OK to ask for more elaboration and details whenever someone is providing feedback to you. It’s the best way to fully grasp the thoughts that the person has on your performance.

3. Listen for the message. Providing feedback is a challenging thing for many people. We’re socialized not to want to hurt one’s feelings. So, providing honest feedback to someone can require some courage. And, sometimes, the words don’t come out quite right. Do not get hung up on the words that the feedback is wrapped in. Instead, listen for the message and try to learn from it.

4. Recognize the opportunity to collaborate. When someone gives you feedback, seize the opportunity to collaborate with that person. Explore other ideas for how you can become great. Brainstorm and join forces with that person so that you develop an ally that you can be used to bounce ideas off of down-the-road.

5. Embrace it! Someone cares enough to want to help you. See it as an opportunity to become better at what you do. If you get defensive, you stop listening. Stop! Hear it out and synthesize the counsel that you’ve just received.

6. Determine what you will do with it. While it’s true that not all feedback is necessarily constructive, there is usually some kernel of value in any feedback that you receive. Train yourself to seek out that kernel from even the most negative response to your work and you will become better.

To close, let’s start the year off right by learning how to seek and receive feedback. It’s amazing how much you’ll learn that will make you even greater than you were last year!

This article originally appeared on You can connect with Jim Kerr at [email protected]