Negative Feedback and How to Respond

Hate Getting Negative Feedback? What To Do First, Before Responding

Have you ever gotten a piece of feedback you didn't really like?

Join the club, because it happens.

And taking that information personally is super easy. As soon as that info starts coming in, you might find yourself shifting into defensive mode. Before telling the bearer of feedback to f*#k off and stick it where the sun don’t shine, pause for a second, my friend. This is not the time to put emotion in the driver’s seat, because...

...Feedback is good. Wait. What?

True story. Even when it isn’t great, feedback can still be good. Especially when you evaluate it before you respond to it.

The next time you're on the receiving end of a piece of feedback you don't like, you need to ask yourself 5 questions before doing anything.

  1.  Why is it being said?

Everyone has a motivation for sharing information. What’s motivating the person giving the feedback? Are they genuinely interested in helping? Maybe they don’t want to see you blindsided by someone else who has an issue and they are helping you head off a small problem before it becomes a big problem.

On the other hand, the motivation may be about setting you off balance or feeding an insecurity. And just maybe, they’re simply being downright mean for their own reasons.

Knowing your relationship with the individual, plus your past interactions can help demystify whether this person has your interests at heart or if there’s an ulterior motive involved.

  1. Is this true? What part of it is true?

Most feedback has nugget of truth in it, even when it’s not entirely true. Sit with the information you’ve been given, break it down, and examine the parts that may be even a little bit true.

 Consider what is true and ask yourself; Can I address any of this? Is it worth addressing?

And those parts that you know aren’t true – let them go – they can’t serve you. 

  1. What is this telling me about the other person?

Here’s the thing about feedback: It usually tells you a lot more about the person giving it than it does about you.

It tells you about their likes and dislikes, how they prefer to communicate, and what they want from you.

Feedback tells you a lot about the other person’s expectations and it can even give you a glimpse into their motivations.

The information you’re getting can help you better understand the other person. This information can help build stronger relationships and it can also help you decide how - or if - you want to interact with that person in the future. 

  1. Am I taking this personally? Should I take it personally?

Most feedback is not personal, even when it feels that way. A thoughtless offhand comment might hurt, but again, it says so much more about the other person than it does about you.

Think about this:

*  First, how well does the person giving information really know you?

*  Second, refer to questions 1 – 3 above to get clear. (hint:  You probably shouldn't take it personally)

Remember if it’s not personal, don’t take it personally. 

  1. What can I do? What should I do? and, What do I want to do? with this information?

So, you have feedback that someone has shared with you. You asked yourself some key questions, and you have a fairly good understanding of the information you received. Now what?  

This last question has three parts:

What can I do with this information? Is the subject of the feedback within your control? Is there anything you can do about it?

If you can do something about it ask next,What should I do with this information?” What feels like the right thing to do on a gut level?

Then ask, What do I want to do with this information?” How will you incorporate the feedback into your job, friendships, business relationships, or other areas of your life? Action is where the magic happens. If you want to use the feedback you’ve received, the actions you take are what will make the difference.

There you have it, five questions to ask yourself before responding to feedback. 

And remember: 

  • Feedback actually says more about the person giving it than it says about you.
  • If it's not personal, don't take it personally.
  • Understand what you’re learning about the person giving the feedback.

Use what you learn to level up your communication skills, discover what others need and desire, and take advantage of the opportunity to deliver above and beyond expectation.

Here’s the thing

Feedback is a gift because it shows that the person giving it cared enough to provide it. Except, of course, in cases of someone with impure motivations (That my friend, is enough to fill a whole new blog post!).

How you choose to emotionally respond to the feedback you receive and what you do next has the potential to help you improve your interactions and build even better, stronger, more productive relationships.

Take the opportunity you have been given and run with it.

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