Thanks for the Feedback — By Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen

3 min readFeb 21, 2021

As Product Managers we are constantly receiving feedback on our work and ourselves from Customers, Users, Product Leaders, Stakeholders, Developers, other Teams. How then do we receive feedback (especially difficult one’s) well?.

“When we give feedback, we notice that the receiver isn’t good at receiving it. When we receive feedback, we notice that the giver isn’t good at giving it”

There is always something to improve, so why can’t you accept me the way I am?

In addition to our desire to learn and improve, we long for something else that is fundamental: to be loved, accepted, and respected just as we are. Feedback suggests that how we are is not quite okay. So we wrestle.

3 Triggers that prevent us from receiving feedback well:

Receiving feedback well is a process of sorting and filtering, of learning how the other person sees things. Trying on ideas that at first seem a poor fit and experimenting. And of shelving or discarding the parts of the feedback that seem off or not what you need right now. T

Obstacles that keep us from engaging skillfully in a feedback conversation

How to overcome Truth Triggers?

Know the 3 Types of Feedback — Know what you want and what you are getting

Very often we expect ‘Appreciation’ but in return get ‘Evaluation’. We want our friend to say ‘Great job!’ but what we get in return is ‘This doesn’t work’ and it instantly disappoints us.

Alternately we want ‘Coaching’ from a Product Leader. We want our leader to say how they would do this and that better. What we get is ‘That’s nice’, which is ‘Appreciation’ leaving us a little clueless.

Develop Self Awareness on the type of Feedback you are expecting to receive and are actually receiving.
Consequently if you are a feedback giver, it helps you and the receiver too in understanding the kind of feedback you want to give.

How to overcome Relationship Triggers?

Disentangle What from Who. Relationship triggers produce hurt, suspicion and sometimes anger. The way out is to disentangle the feedback from the relationship issues it triggers and discuss both clearly and separately. Don’t drop the original feedback because you are taking up relationship issues. Separate them. Be aware of ‘who’ and ‘what’ and remember to keep these things differentiated.

How to overcome Identity Triggers?

Know that everybody is wired differently. Understanding your own temperament will help you get an insight into why you reach the way you do and why others react differently.
Don’t be a Google Search! — Dismantle Distortions.
When we receive feedback that is especially difficult to receive, our mind goes back to all the prior failures. Every relationship, failed job, fall come to the fore. We run a Google Search through our entire memory database and all those memories of years instantly flood our mind making us feel worse. Know that the feedback you are receiving now, is specific to one context and don’t allow your cognitive bias to cloud your judgement.

Lastly know that any feedback you receive, you have the right to say no. You have boundaries and can always say no to harmful feedback given out of malice.

A great book that helped me understand how I receive and process feedback!




I love the profession of Product Management that helps me build meaningful relationships with teams and customers. I just can’t get enough of reading!