Keep Breathing: 7 Empowering Tips to Help Nurses Receive Constructive Feedback!

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BB closer Headshot 1-13 CherationsI used to be a little defensive at times, but with education, practice, personal work and new experiences, I have become more open to receiving feedback.  There are days I’m more vulnerable and less open, but I know this about myself and do my best to own my needs and limitations around that.

For many of us this isn’t easy, and yet feedback is a vital source of information about how we are perceived in the world.  In addition, when given respectfully, feedback is a gift that can help us build relationships, participate in creative problem-solving, and evolve as human beings.


Here is a list that you can use to optimize learning and minimize discomfort the next time you are in the position to receive feedback.

1.    Breathe. Remember you are a worthy person, separate from your actions and behaviors.  Feedback is from the giver’s perspective, and you can choose what to take in.

2.    Consider your choices.  Is it a good or at least reasonable, time and place for feedback?  Is there a way to schedule a dialogue soon, that allows you to honor any needs you have around time, vulnerability, place, or other issues?

I do want to hear what you have to say, but have to be in a meeting in 5 minutes.  Are you available after your shift today or before your shift tomorrow?

I want to hear your feedback.  I would like to find a private setting.  Are you available to have coffee after work?

If this is a structured personnel evaluation at work, you may have less choice about when and where, but you can always ask.

I’ve had a very stressful day.  Can we postpone my evaluation until later in the week?  I’d like to be more rested and receptive than I am at the moment.

3.    Listen carefully & try to drop your defensiveness. Paraphrase the information you are receiving to make sure you understand the information. Validate their perspective and ask questions for clarity.    Repeat number 1 above!

It sounds as if you were upset and surprised about the way I handled the situation with my patient’s family that involved pain medication.  I’m also hearing that you are worried about me.  Am I understanding you correctly?


4.    Acknowledge the feedback.  Let the person know you have heard him/her and that you will consider the feedback.

I appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts and value your perspective.  I’d like to take some time and reflect on it.

5.    Take time to sort out what you have heard. Give yourself time and space to assimilate and evaluate the information. Remember that it’s not necessary to agree or disagree with the feedback. It is simply information. Let go of the need to justify, defend, or explain your actions. Don’t over-internalize the feedback (i.e. assume it is all true).

6.    Be honest with yourself. Use feedback as an opportunity to create greater self- awareness. Explore any feelings created by the feedback.Give yourself credit.

7.    Give yourself credit.  Receiving feedback can be hard work.

Wow, that was really hard!  I did a good job staying centered during my personnel evaluation.  I’m glad I asked and I can wait until tomorrow to offer my feedback. 

I find that the more secure I am, the easier it is for me to take in feedback from others.  I have learned to take things less personally and respect my needs as part of the process.  All sorts of variables may come into play, such as; my relationship with the giver of feedback, what is going on in my life, how hungry I am, and even the weather!  So I do my best.   Feedback can be extremely rewarding.  On a personal level, it can lead to more awareness, trust, and creativity.  In the workplace, it contributes to safe and high-quality care, positive workplaces, and increased job satisfaction!

Please feel free to contact me as I’m always happy to get your feedback.

Want to learn more about insights, challenges, discussion and reflection points about communication and nursing?  Here is a special offer for you! Confident Voices:  The Nurses’ Guide to Improving Communication & Creating Positive Workplaces. ( Special book offer:  SAVE  20% NOW  at Beth’s EStore  Use coupon code:  D359FSBP )

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2 Responses to Keep Breathing: 7 Empowering Tips to Help Nurses Receive Constructive Feedback!

  1. Jim Murphy says:

    These are seven very practical tips on receiving feedback! Feedback is a subject on which much has been written, though more from the viewpoint of those giving it than for those receiving, which so that makes this list especially helpful.

    I’d suggest that feedback works best when it is two-way. “Better to give than to receive” is perhaps particularly true about such evaluations. Those giving feedback have more credibility and trust when they accept reciprocity; those receiving it will find the process easier to handle if they can have their say.

    If you are going to receive feedback, then, it may be advisable to negotiate for your right to give your own feedback. If a supervisor is giving you feedback on your performance as an employee, both of you will profit it you can give you own feedback on how you are being supervised. It is even possible to give feedback on the feedback process itself; when both parties communicate that way, they can create a “virtuous circle” of self-improvement.

    The golden rule of feedback is that we all love getting it – as long as it positive. But however much we breathe, pride ourselves on our objectivity, rationalize, or whatever, negative feedback is painful. Those giving feedback are thus commonly advised to begin with something positive and (I would add) to ensure that the negative is much less.

    For those on the receiving end, positive feedback can be almost too enjoyable, allowing one to write off the negative. Hence I myself often tell people that, being a very conceited person, I don’t really need positive feedback at all, so just tell me the negative!

    It helps if negative feedback is worded so that it is more descriptive than critical. Indeed if you are in the distressful situation of getting predominantly negative feedback, you may need to do your own “reframing” to consider it as helpful (even it was not in fact well intended).

    In any case, Beth’s tips are very good for making receiving feedback a useful experience. And they can each be “reversed” for those who are giving it. One example: Before giving any feedback, ask if the person is feeling well and in a positive mood; if not, postpone till a suitable occasion.

What are your thoughts?