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Dealing with Negative Feedback

April 23 2018 - by Lois Parkes, CLP's Regional Project Manager

In a previous blog entitled, Check Yourself, I pointed out that one way of increasing one’s self awareness, especially as a leader, is to seek feedback. Then, I had pointed out that this was not for the insecure.

In this blog, I want to explore this more deeply. Let’s face it – the challenge with asking for feedback isn’t receiving positive feedback. I mean, who doesn’t like to hear wonderful things about themselves? The challenge lies in dealing with negative feedback, especially if you were not expecting it.

Receiving negative feedback often triggers negative responses in most of us, from anger to defensiveness to hurt. Being triggered negatively is a perfectly human reaction, in my view. The challenge then is what happens next.

In addressing negative feedback, it is essential to recognise that what happens next is up to you - the individual. According to Victor E. Frankl, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” What a wonderful thought and concept! So let’s break it down – dealing with negative feedback 101:

  • Identify your pause and seize it. Use that space, no matter how brief, to reflect on what’s happening, how you are being triggered, and how you are going to choose to react. Your reaction is a choice, and reacting from a place of anger, defensiveness or hurt, can lead to more lasting negative impacts, that may not serve you and others around you well. Suppose, for example, you are getting this negative feedback from your team members. It may have taken tremendous courage on their part to impart same. Reacting badly to their feedback could lead to irreparable damage to the working relationship.
  • Identify your long-term, deeply-held values. In reflecting on negative feedback, you have to determine what are your values that relate to this situation; what are the outcomes that you really want and value. For example, if improvement in performance and performance outcomes are your long-term, deeply-held values, what response is required of you in relation to this unfavourable feedback that you are receiving? Does the need to be right outweigh the need for improvement?
  • Choose your reactions. Once you have identified and used your pause, as well as determined what values are most important in the context, you then strategically choose your reaction, in order to get the best possible outcomes. This is not to say that your negative emotions have all disappeared. This is a decision to act in ways that will lead to the outcomes you desire, sometimes despite your feelings.

As you reflect on your own experiences of receiving negative feedback, you are invited to share your feedback:

  • How have you responded in the past to negative feedback?
  • What would you do differently now?
  • What helped you to address negative feedback in a positive way?

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Annette - Reply

It takes a certain level of professional maturity to accept negative feedback in a positive way.

As the saying goes – don’t as k for what you don’t want. If we don’t want or cannot handle all types of feedback, then perhaps we should not ask for it in the first place. Also, we need to determine why we are asking for the feedback. Is it just to say we have sought feedback? Or is it because we intend to use the feedback – negative or positive – in a meaningful way?

Seeking feedback is like going to the Dentist. We look forward to the results of having a brighter smile but dread the procedure itself.  Preparing for and enduring the procedure are key to the outcome: the smile - improved performance, a better you.

Lois Parkes

Very interesting insight. One really has to focus on the longer term benefits and not the short term or immediate negatives/discomfort. Thanks for sharing

Lois Parkes

Very interesting insight. One really has to focus on the longer term benefits and not the short term or immediate negatives/discomfort. Thanks for sharing