I want you to ponder the following question for a moment, because it's one of the most important questions you'll ever answer.

How do you respond to feedback?

Sheryl Sandberg recently visited Airbnb to share lessons learned from her years at Facebook and Google. (Special thanks to Thach Nguyen, HR business partner at Airbnb, for posting these on LinkedIn.)

The question was posed to Sandberg: "What's the number one thing you look for in someone who can scale with a company?"

Sandberg's reply:

"Someone who takes feedback well. Because people who can take feedback well are people who can learn and grow quickly."

Boom goes the dynamite.

Why we need feedback.

Nobody's right all the time. That's why criticism can help us to grow; unfortunately, emotions often prevent us from taking advantage of negative feedback. Simply put, it never feels good to hear we're wrong.

Additionally, since there's an art to delivering negative feedback well, there's a good chance that much of the criticism you receive isn't as "constructive" as it could be.

Nonetheless, most criticism is rooted in truth--even if it's not delivered in an ideal manner. Which means when you're on the receiving end of criticism, you're left with two choices:

  • You can put your feelings aside and try to learn from the situation.
  • You can get angry and let emotion get the best of you.

One method is proactive, the other is reactive.

Guess which will benefit you in the long run?

To be clear, I'm not excusing criticism that's hurtful or poorly delivered. (Read this if you want to learn how to give negative feedback that's emotionally intelligent.) And the truth is, if you're in the habit of delivering sincere and specific commendation first, it's much easier for your people to take your criticism the way its intended--to help.

But if you're on the receiving end of negative feedback, don't waste time rating how ideally it was delivered.

Instead, ask yourself the following:

  • How can I use this feedback to help me or my team improve?
  • Putting my personal feelings aside, what can I learn from this alternate perspective?

In the rare case the negative feedback is completely unfounded, it can still give you a chance to see how a sample of your audience will feel about things. (My forthcoming book, which serves as a practical guide to emotional intelligence, outlines more specific strategies for how you can make sure you benefit from criticism.)

If you really want to grow as a person, take Ms. Sandberg's advice and learn to make the most of negative feedback.

Because it'll only make you better.