Feedback SARAH

January 15, 2017 1:41 pm Leave your thoughts

It seems like it’s been a while since I wrote at this blog! Now that I’m back, it’s time to talk about something different. Today I want to talk about getting feedback.

Receiving feedback is something that is quite interesting. Depending on our background, values, culture, beliefs, etc, the effect on receiving feedback might be different between one or another. As an example, I can say that for some people, getting constructive feedback is like getting a full head on slap in the face. On the other hand for some others, it might be just a walk in the park and they can take them quite positively. 

Does it mean that a person that cannot receive feedback calmly is a bad person to work with then? Absolutely not. I think we just need to understand what is happening in our heads when we receive feedback. Therefore to explain this I’d like to introduce SARAH.

feedback SARAH


SARAH stands for:

  • Shock 
  • Anger
  • Rejection
  • Acceptance
  • Helpful

The above are basically the stages that we may go through when we receive any constructive feedback. You may argue that you didn’t go through all the stages upon receiving feedback and that might be correct, I view those 5 stages as options. The main importance is which one is your last stage that you end up with.


Getting constructive feedback is not always easy. Depending on who is giving the feedback and how the feedback is given, you may fall into the shock state. This is the part where your head says: “Where did this come from??” “Why is this happening” “Is this really happening?”.

Let’s say that you are a software developer and you teammate had given you a feedback saying that the way you code the module wasn’t efficient at all and there was a lot of crufts. Now if you take pride in your work, some shock might happen the moment you hear the feedback given.


After getting the shock, anger can be the next stage. Note that I said can, because you may actually be someone who is able to transitioned from the shock state to the next stages immediately. 

In this example though, let’s assume that you are getting a bit angry to the feedback on your code. You feel really down and it’s possible that you get angry to the person giving you feedback as well. 

This is not a very good state to stick around at. Just like what master Yoda said “…Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering….”. 

The best thing to do is to get calm yourself and move to the next state of mind, but before that let’s talk about the middle state.


Personally I think rejection is the worst state of mind to be stuck into. Rejecting any kind of feedback, be it constructive or positive is bad for your personal and career growth. I think rejection represents being stagnant and unwillingness to move forward.

Let’s take our software developer example. If we did reject the feedback given to us regarding our code and we stick around with using our potentially sub-optimal codes, then there is good chance it’ll blow up in production environment. It’ll be too late for us then to even think of other things.

I think if you feel your are getting into the rejection state, quickly do something to get out of it. Sometimes doing simple things like going out to lunch or taking a walk will quickly change our state of mind.


Acceptance is the state where we want to transfer our minds into from either shock, anger or rejection. Just by accepting the constructive feedback, you are already learning something new. Just by listening and understanding a feedback, you have grown a bit as a person. 

This is the state where you and I need to be in to move towards the next final state.


Being helpful after a feedback is the best state to be in. It doesn’t mean that you’ll do whatever the feedback says you should do. Instead, it is about thinking of how you can be a part of the solution instead of being a part of the problem yourself. This is about being helpful to yourself as much as to others in your team. 

To the advantages of transitioning to being helpful are:

  • You have contributed to your personal and career growth
  • Others will see you as a person receptive to feedback and will continue to give you more input
  • You are a team player who is not afraid of change and continuous improvements

Just before closing off, let’s get back to our developer example. If you as a software developer then move to the helpful state after receiving the constructive feedback, then the next logical step is to review the code and find out if there are things that you can do to optimise the codes further. Obviously this can be either from your own research or better yet, from working together with the person giving you the feedback.

To Conclude

I hope that keeping the SARAH framework in mind will help you out whenever you receive any feedback or giving any feedback. The ability to transition from either shock, anger or rejection into acceptance then to helpful will help both your team and yourself. This is because part of what makes a high performing team is the transparency and trust within the team. Knowing that you can receive and give feedback safely is part of the recipe for trust. 

Feel free to discuss your experiences in receiving or giving feedback. This is something that’s very important in any organisations, business and individual growth.


Categorised in: , ,