They don’t have all the facts; they don’t know the full story.

They are clearly wrong.

But what if they weren’t? At least, what if they weren’t entirely wrong.

Is it possible that within the critical feedback that seems harsh or misinformed, there is an element of truth?

I’m not suggesting that there is – just – what if there was? Would it be possible to lose what is helpful amid dismissing what seems hurtful?

The leaders that I know who receive feedback like are pro aren’t quick to look for what is false about what they are hearing in order to dismiss it. They take the time to listen and seek out what could be true in order to learn from it.

When it comes to considering evidence or weighing up facts, according to Harvard Psychology Professor Daniel Gilbert ‘the human brain knows many tricks that allow it to reach precisely the conclusion it favours’.

Take his unfortunately all too relatable example in the article I’m O.K., You’re Biased in the New York Times.

“When our bathroom scale delivers bad news, we hop off and then on again, just to make sure we didn’t misread the display or put too much pressure on one foot. When our scale delivers good news, we smile and head for the shower. By uncritically accepting evidence when it pleases us, and insisting on more when it doesn’t, we subtly tip the scales in our favour.”

When you’re on the receiving end of hard feedback it’s easy to look for the evidence that supports what you already believe about the situation. It’s called disconfirmation bias. In their book Super Thinking, Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann explain it as imposing a stronger burden of proof on the ideas you don’t want to believe.

Professor Gilbert nailed it when said that:

“We cannot underestimate the influence of self-interest on our own judgments and decisions”.

It doesn’t take much to dismiss what others may have got wrong about you. It takes a secure leader to acknowledge what they might have got right.

Here’s a question to reflect on next time you’re on the receiving end of hard feedback:
What in this feedback is helpful and could teach me something?