In this world, we’re all regularly “blessed” when others offer us an opportunity for growth (OFG), which is a nice way of telling us, basically, how we need to improve. Whether this OFG feedback is true or untrue, if we’re smart, we’ll receive that OFG with an attitude of grace and gratitude.

But we’re not always smart. Sometimes, we resist. We sometimes feel off put by either the message itself or its messenger. And our resistance sabotages our own growth.

Thanks for the Feedbackby Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen may be the most highlighted book on my Kindle. It’s certainly the best book on feedback I’ve ever read. Stone and Heen acknowledge that no one really loves OFGs. It’s not fun to get negative feedback. We have almost nocontrol over the frequency, timing, or scope of OFGs—but we do have total control over how we respond to them. And the entire leadership benefit of OFGs is won or lost on how we respond, both in the moment and soon afterward. Stone and Heen suggest we all develop the discipline of giving ourselves “a second score.”

The first score is the feedback itself: the evaluation you receive from another person. The second score is a grade you give yourself for how productively you respond to the first score.

Historically, my batting average with second scores was low. In a conversation with a peer or boss, as soon as I realized I was getting OFG’d, I would experience an internal, protective fight-or-flight reflex. I’d be so focused on defending myself that I’d miss the valuable parts of the feedback I was receiving (the first score). Thus I’d earn a low grade on my second score as well. All of the pain, none of the gain.

Today, as a result of reading great books like this one, I’m pursuing the discipline of receiving OFGs well and earning a good second score. The results have been exhilarating because a good second score maximizes what I can learn from the OFG, thus accelerating my growth.

In recent years, I’ve developed a two-part rhythm for receiving feedback that produces stronger first andsecond scores—and helps me feel less OFG’d in the process. See if this rhythm might help you.

First Score | Four in-the-moment steps

As you’re receiving the feedback;

  1. Calm yourselfwith productive self-talk. (“Don’t be defensive. Learn from what they’re saying.”)
  2. Listen wellto understand the OFG.
  3. Ask questionsto clarify, not to defend
  4. Acknowledge and thankthe OFG messenger whether we agree with them or not.


Second Score | Four after-the-fact steps

In the minutes, hours, or days that follow:

  1. Ask yourself, “What nuggets of truth do I need to hear?”
  2. Ask trusted others the same question.The key for me here is to not ask people who will rescue or defend me. I will have time to glean affirmation or reassurance later. Right now, I need truth! We all have blind spots, so the discipline of seeking that which we do not (yet) see is essential for our growth.
  3. Boil the problem down to a single sentence that links your emotion to your reaction:
  1. Develop a plan to address the OFG


I recently was coaching a leader of a large division in her company who struggled mightily with being defensive when given feedback. In our early weeks of working together, first we focused on improving her second score, thenon improving her first—the actual OFG that someone brought up. Eventually, the ritual of eagerly seeking a better second score resulted in dramatic improvement with her first. She still reacts internally with the prospect of hearing feedback, but she has learned to earn a great second score by listening and responding well when she gets OFG’d. Then she can circle back and improve her first score by gaining the life lesson she needed to hear.

Even if the feedback we get is inaccurate or difficult to hear or, we grow in our leadership and influence when we receive the first score with humility and gratitude. Our great second score sets us up to grow in an area that was previously a blind spot.





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