How dare she say that to me?

More often than not, righteous indignation is our first response when receiving negative feedback…
However to really learn, and grow, all of us need to be able to take on board criticism as well as compliments – 1extract value from negative feedback.

Usually this blog is all my own content but Nicole Lindsay posted these points the same day as my last post on Giving Negative feedback, so I have included her pointers on Gracefully Receiving Feedback as a balance.

extracting value from negative feedback image
Defensiveness and anger stop us from benefiting from feedback. We know there’s value in constructive criticism, how else would we identify our weaknesses and areas of improvement? Being able to handle it calmly and professionally helps us maintain relationships and be more successful in everything we do.
So, the next time you receive constructive criticism from your manager or a peer, use this six-step process to handle the encounter with tact and grace.

1. Stop Your First Reaction

At the first sign of criticism, before you do anything—stop. Really. Try not to react at all! You will have at least one second to stop your reaction. While one second seems insignificant in real life, it’s ample time for your brain to process a situation. And in that moment, you can halt a dismissive facial expression or reactive quip and remind yourself to stay calm.

2. Remember the Benefit of Getting Feedback

Also quickly remind yourself of the benefits of receiving constructive criticism — namely, to improve your skills, work product, and relationships, and to help you meet the expectations that your manager and others have of you. Remember to try to curtail any reaction you’re having to the person who is delivering the feedback. It can be challenging to receive criticism from a co-worker, a peer, or someone you don’t fully respect, but remember, accurate and constructive feedback can even come from flawed sources.

3. Listen for Understanding

Engage in a productive dialogue as your competent, thoughtful self (as opposed to your combative, Mean self).
As the person shares feedback with you, listen closely. Allow the person to convey his or her complete thoughts, without interruption. When he or she is done, repeat back what you heard. For example, “I hear you saying that you want me to provide more detailed weekly reports, is that right?” At this point, avoid analyzing or questioning the person’s assessment; instead, just focus on understanding his or her comments and perspective. If you can, go the extra step – give the benefit of the doubt here — most people find it difficult to give feedback to another person. Recognize the person giving you feedback may be nervous or may not express his or her ideas perfectly.

4. Say Thank You

Next (and this is a hard part, I know), look the person in the eyes and thank him or her for sharing feedback with you.
Don’t gloss over this, be deliberate, and say, “I really appreciate you taking the time to talk about this with me.” Expressing appreciation doesn’t have to mean you’re agreeing with the assessment, but it does show that you’re acknowledging the effort your colleague took to evaluate you and share his or her thoughts. It also gives you an extra split-second to start processing the comments.

5. Ask Questions to Deconstruct the Feedback

Process the feedback — you’ll probably want to get more clarity at this point and share your perspective. Avoid engaging in a debate; instead, ask questions to get to the root of the actual issues being raised and possible solutions for addressing them. For example, if a colleague tells you that you got a little heated in a meeting, here are a few ways to deconstruct the feedback:

  • Seek specific examples to help you understand the issue: “I was a little frustrated, but can you share when in the meeting you thought I got heated?”
  • Acknowledge the feedback that is not in dispute: “You’re right that I did cut him off while he was talking, and I later apologized for that.”
  • Try to understand whether this is an isolated issue (e.g. a mistake you made once): “Have you noticed me getting heated in other meetings?”
  • Seek specific solutions to address the feedback: “I’d love to hear your ideas on how I might handle this differently in the future.”

6. Request Time to Follow Up

Hopefully, by this point in the conversation, you can agree on the issues that were raised. If not, it’s a larger issue, or something presented by your boss, request a follow-up meeting – giving you time to ask more questions and get agreement as to next steps. You might need time to process the feedback, seek advice from others, and think about solutions. Once you articulate what you will do going forward, and thank the person again for the feedback, you can close the conversation and move on.
Constructive criticism is often the only way we learn about our weaknesses — without it we can’t improve. When we are defensive, instead of being accepting and gracious, we run the risk of missing out on important insights. Remember, feedback is not easy to give and it’s certainly not easy to receive, but it will help us now and in the long run.

If you truly believe that negative feedback can improve performance, be willing to accept it as well as provide it – even go so far as to ASK for it. Few things are more valuable to managers than relevant honest feedback from your employees.

NOTE:  For the original article on the above Points see Taking Constructive Criticism like a Champ.


About the Author

Eve Blackall

Eve Blackall the small business answer to The Supernanny.
At Smart Accounting you work one-on-one with Eve who has already assisted hundreds of business owners increase cash-flow, grow profits, and ensuring businesses fetch the highest price when it comes time to sell.