For many employees, being on the receiving end of feedback may be one of the toughest, most stressful parts of their jobs. Few things can cause the palms to sweat and the heart to race, like the possibility of getting negative feedback.
Throw in some genuinely negative experiences with receiving feedback, and you’ll be primed for an amygdala hijack before the conversation even starts.
Fortunately, there are some ways to prepare your brain to receive feedback in a positive way—even if the feedback isn’t what you want to hear. Here are four things you can do to prime your brain to receive feedback:
1. ANTICIPATE AND SOOTHE YOUR AUTOMATIC STRESS RESPONSE
While your rational brain likely understands that performance feedback isn’t the same as being chased by a sabertoothed tiger, your automatic stress response doesn’t have the luxury of taking a chance. When alerted to any kind of danger, your body responds by getting ready to take action. Understanding that this response is both expected and automatic will help you separate the physiological response from the actual feedback. You can soothe your stress response by taking a few deep breaths and grounding yourself in the present reality. Remind your brain that you are not under attack and that even worst-case scenarios can be dealt with calmly and rationally.
2. ENGAGE YOUR HIGHER FUNCTIONS BEFORE THE CONVERSATION
Once you have taken a moment to calm your physiological stress response, take a moment to check in with yourself. If your brain is on high alert, your ability to listen or process new information drastically diminishes, and the longer you are in this state, the more likely you are to have an emotional reaction that is disproportionate to the situation. Recognizing that you have shifted into emergency mode is often enough to help switch your frontal cortex on so you can listen and think rationally. If that isn’t enough, remind yourself that the danger isn’t immediate. When your brain remembers that you have time to act, it will pull in your higher functions and give you space to reflect on the best response.
3. FOCUS ON GROWTH
A boss will rarely give brutal or harsh feedback for no reason. Understand that in most circumstances, the goal is to provide you with action-oriented feedback that will help you grow into a better employee and meet your own career goals. Look at the feedback as an opportunity to make improvements and grow, and ask questions about what steps or actions you can take to improve. When you operate from a growth mindset, feedback feels less threatening and more productive.
4. REST AND RECHARGE
Stress is an unavoidable part of modern life, and your ability to relax your stress response and respond well in the moment is largely impacted by what you do outside of the moment. Listening to and taking care of your body with supportive nutrition, healthy movement, and adequate sleep will fill your reserve tank, giving you more energy to calm yourself down when needed. Incorporate activities that bring you joy or help you feel energized as a means of recharging your batteries. These can include spending time in nature, taking your dog on a walk, reading, relaxing in a bath, or socializing with friends. Make a list of the activities you find reenergizing and schedule time in your day to engage in them. Consider this preventative maintenance that will help you receive feedback well and improve your overall quality of life in the process.
Hearing feedback isn’t always easy, but it can be done in a way that encourages development, growth, and improvement. By priming your brain to engage its higher functions as you take in feedback, your feedback conversations will be far more effective.
Note: This article first appeared on Forbes.com