It’s inevitable. As a professional, you’re going to be the recipient of feedback at some point during your career. Whether from a client or a colleague, it is one of the unavoidable universal truths of the business world.
And here’s the kicker: it’s not always going to be positive.
Differences in opinions, styles of work or perceptions of situations mean that not everything you do is going to be perfect to everyone – and that’s perfectly fine. What’s important is how you take critical feedback, learn from it, apply it and use it to improve creating a positive outcome.
Here are 4 tips to help you deal with negative feedback in a positive way.
1. Embrace the Emotion and Don’t Rush to React
Nobody likes getting critical feedback. Hearing your shortcomings is one of the hardest things you can do. But critical feedback can sometimes be a necessary reality check that gives perspective to self-image in comparison to real and honest areas for improvement.
Next time you receive some tough or challenging feedback, don’t feel you need to rush to react. Instead, take some time to process it all and bounce back before deciding what to do next. Consider making a concerted effort to change the way you see the feedback. Try to see upsetting or surprising information as helpful and productive data.
You can also implement self-affirmation as another useful technique. None of us are defined solely by our job, so take a moment to remind yourself of another important aspect of who you are beside the one being threatened. For example, if you receive feedback that you can be a micromanager, remind yourself that you are also a supportive friend or a loving family member.
Seeing the bigger picture can help put feedback into its proper perspective, in turn paving the way for how best to respond.
2. Gather Additional Data and Insights
Critical feedback can be a shock to the system, especially it’s something you truly weren’t expecting. It can be disheartening to learn that people don’t see you the way you see yourself.
It’s wise to gain additional data and insights from a secondary source with an outside perspective. The fact is that you can’t really act on feedback in an appropriate way until you truly understand it. Asking a few trustworthy sources whether they’ve noticed the same behavior will not only give you more detail about what you might be doing, it can also help you avoid over-correcting based on one person’s opinion.
It’s important to keep a small circle of “loving critics” who you know will be brutally honest with you. With their help, you can get a clearer idea of how your behavior might be coming across or how you might’ve approached a task or situation differently. This, in turn, can provide you with the power to make better choices.
3. Find a Harbinger and Execute
The trouble with critical feedback is that an improvement may not always be immediately noticed by the people around you. It can often be more challenging to change the perceptions of your behavior or work than the behavior or work itself. And when you make a drastic change based on the feedback you’ve received but it’s not immediately noticed, it can be disheartening.
To help change this perception and show people you’re serious, pick a harbinger – a portion of the feedback that can be used to quickly demonstrate a change – and execute on it. While it’s great to have long-term plans and goals for how to adapt to critical feedback, it can go a long way to pick a small but visible point to focus on first to show those around you that you’ve heard the feedback and are working to make it right.
4. Don’t Isolate Yourself After Receiving Feedback
If you’ve ever received critical feedback, you’ve probably felt the urge to avoid the person who provided it as well as anybody who might’ve contributed to that feedback.
But this is actually the worst thing you can do. While it might feel temporarily uncomfortable to face them, it’s ultimately more beneficial to hold even closer the people who tell you the honest truth. Critical feedback can be an amazing opportunity to reset relationships and, with the right approach, you can oftentimes make your biggest critics into your greatest champions.
Feedback – whether critical or positive – can be a gift. And while critical feedback can be a hard pill to swallow, it can truly be an opportunity to develop skills, build relationships and drive positive forward momentum – either from a personal or a professional perspective. The key is to work proactively to be positive in how you receive it, interpret it and apply it for continued growth and improvement.