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Can someone elaborate on "always treating feedback as a gift"?

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Entry-Level Software Engineer at Series E Startupa year ago

In the class "How To Succeed At A New Team Or Company As A Software Engineer - 10/29/2022", we talked about how easily people get defensive when receiving feedback that they don’t 100% agree with.

I’m wondering, other than intentionally suppressing this instinct, are there any other tips, tricks, or mindsets that would help?



  • 9
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    Staff Eng @ Google, Ex-Meta SWE, Ex-Amazon SDM/SDE
    a year ago

    Someone is expending their energy, and taking a risk of negative pushback and hurt feelings, to provide you with information that will allow you to get better, with no benefit to them.

    Not telling you is very easy. The easiest thing in the world. There is no (or very little) risk in keeping quiet. Giving someone critical feedback takes courage, preparation, and finesse.

    When you are getting the feedback, it is not the time to respond. You can yell, cry, swear, whatever later. In the moment you can ask some clarifying questions like “what specific situation did this come up?”, or “Do you have any ideas of how I could have done that differently?”. Otherwise, so not be trying to synthesize or process the data in the moment. You need to be a passive observer. Take the notes and really process and make a plan later. Nothing you say in response (except “Thank you”) isn’t really going to be helpful for anyone.

    it is also fair to seek a second opinion, as you may exhibit some behavior in certain situations, which changes how you approach it.

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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a year ago

    The tactics more or less come with the concept: Act as you would when receiving a more "traditional" physical gift.

    Let's say I gave you a free PS5 or an iPhone - How would you react? You would probably do some mix of the following:

    • Smile
    • Give thanks (maybe repeatedly)
    • Nod positively, lean in, show some welcoming body language in general
    • Acknowledge the gift in some way. So instead of "I have always wanted a PS5 to play Last of Us 2", you'll say something like, "I have always wondered how to write RESTful interfaces more cleanly, and now I know how!"

    The thing is that high-quality feedback when you're working as a software engineer is probably higher value than a free PS5 or iPhone. The right feedback from your manager and peers can be the difference between getting promoted in 1 year vs. 3 years, earning you tens of thousands of $$$. This is why you always want to be as welcoming of feedback as possible and be extremely careful when pushing back on it.

    Here are some other resources around getting feedback I recommend:

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