How to leverage positive feedback for personal growth

How to leverage positive feedback for personal growth
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You’ve just finished a challenging task—perhaps gave a high-stakes presentation, shipped a critical feature, or facilitated a difficult meeting. While it didn’t go perfectly (what does?), you rose to the occasion. Afterward, you reach out to a teammate for feedback and they reply with the dreaded “You did a good job.”


generalized complimentary feedback


Don’t get me wrong; I love having kind, thoughtful coworkers, but this type of generalized complimentary feedback can be frustrating. How can you keep growing and improving when everyone is so…nice? 


Let’s go over three different tactics you can use to leverage positive feedback for continued personal growth: doubling down, the reverse ASK, and the most difficult one of all, celebration


Doubling down


Receiving and giving feedback are easier when there is a deficit—some skill that you may be missing—and thus there is a clear path to improving, or at least to gaining competency. But when you’re already “fine” at it, where does “good job” point you? In the case of doubling down, more is better!


doubling down


If the topic interests you, find an aspect of it and dig in! Become the resident expert. Go above and beyond until people either tell you to calm down, or come to you to learn!


Find a person who is more skilled at the topic. What do they do that you don’t? Who can you reach out to to get better feedback from?


When you’re doubling down, you’ll naturally start eliciting better feedback from the folks around you because you’ll be trying out new things, experimenting with forms, and honing your craft.


Reverse ASK


Good feedback is Actionable, Specific, and Kind. The ASK framework isn't so much a recipe for giving feedback as it is a way of evaluating whether positive feedback or negative feedback is useful. 


Part of the reason receiving feedback like “you did a good job” can be frustrating is that it isn't specific or actionable. Since you don't know what they thought was good, you can't continue to do that again going forward. Even if this feedback is delivered kindly, it isn't useful.


If you want to learn how you can use the ASK framework to give good feedback, check out my other blog post!


In this case, it is up to you (the receiver of the ambiguously kind feedback) to draw something specific from it and then decide how to make it actionable


reverse ASK


Let's make it specific! A great way to draw specificity from generality is by asking follow-up questions. Here are three examples that you can try on your own. These questions can range from broad to very specific:

  • “What about my presentation stood out to you?”
  • “How did you find the flow of the meeting?” 
  • “I’ve been working on making sure my language is accessible to everyone in the room. Were there things you heard that helped or hurt that goal?”

Whichever tactic you employ, keep drilling down until you have gleaned something specific. 


Now, let’s make it actionable. 


They liked that you wrote a concise itinerary on the whiteboard at the start of the meeting. 

  • Is that something you are going to keep doing? 
  • Can you think of a way to make it more effective next time? 
  • Are there other ways to accomplish the same outcome more efficiently?


The possibilities are endless, because they’re up to you! 




Full disclosure: celebrating is the hardest tactic. There are three steps:

  1. Accept it
  2. Celebrate it
  3. Move on




This might seem easy, but its ease lies solely in that it is easily the most difficult of the three strategies I’m presenting to implement, especially in the moment. 


Sometimes, as hard as it is to hear, you really did do a good job! Say “thanks” and accept the feedback for the affirmation that it is. 


Celebrate! It probably wasn’t easy. You worked hard and pulled it off. WOOHOO! 


Maybe the topic isn’t something you’re terribly interested in, and so being “good enough” is… good enough. 


If you’re not excited to double down, then it might be time to move on, and that’s fine. Not everyone needs to be great at everything! (Spoiler: they aren’t.) 

Wrapping Up


We have gone over three different strategies for taking nice feedback and making it actionable: 


  1. Doubling down
  2. The reverse ASK
  3. Celebration


I hope you employ these strategies in your day-to-day interactions to learn and grow—even when you're surrounded by the nicest of people!

Interested in reading more blog posts like this?

We post about people and culture, engineering, and product every other week.

Aaron Foster Breilyn (afb)

Aaron Foster Breilyn (afb)

Principal Software Engineer

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