One of the signs of a truly great leader is a willingness to seek out feedback—and to accept it graciously, even when it’s less than positive.

Obviously, none of us like being reminded of our flaws, and we can all struggle to receive difficult truths. And yet, this is one of the ways in which we grow: when friends or colleagues get real with us and show us how we can work harder, thrive more, become better.

So as you solicit feedback, how can you make sure that you’re really hearing it, implementing it, and handling it with aplomb? Let me offer a few brief tips.

Dealing with Tough Feedback

First, stop. Your natural reaction will be to bristle, to get defensive. You might start to say, “Yeah, but…” Resist that temptation. Make yourself be quiet and still. Listen to the whole of the feedback you’re being given, and marinate on it before you react. Think through your response.

Say thank you. Someone was bold enough to point out some areas for you to improve, which not only shows courage, but also proves that the person cares about you. He or she is trying to help—so offer your appreciation.

Find an element of truth in what you’re being told. Let’s say someone tells you that you always talk too loudly in the workplace. Well, that’s probably an exaggeration—but maybe you do talk too loudly sometimes? Likewise, if someone says you’re always late, what he or she likely means is that you are frequently late. Don’t take the tough feedback as a total insult, but rather, look for that little bit of truth. Identify any patterns in your own behavior, based on the feedback you’ve been given.

Be curious. Ask yourself why someone would venture to provide you with this feedback—what problem he or she is trying to solve. When you’re curious, you’re engaged in finding the truth, rather than becoming defensive.

Seek clarity. Don’t hesitate to ask questions to find out what the person is truly trying to tell you. Make sure you understand before you try defending yourself.

Be willing to take tough feedback—and to use it to truly grow!