Thursday, October 17, 2013

3 Ways To Empower Yourself When You Receive Negative Feedback

Negative feedback is part of life. Unless you do nothing and are totally irrelevant, there will always be people who do not like you and will tell you about it if you ask. One way people avoid negative feedback is to never ask for any feedback at all. Feedback is necessary to growth and negative feedback helps keep us on our toes. While it is natural for us to be hurt by negative feedback, we should never let it derail us. I stress again, negative feedback means you are doing something. And doing something is way better than doing nothing. However, we should make the most of all the feedback we receive, even the negative.  Here are three ways to empower yourself when you receive negative feedback:

Consider The Source

Seems obvious but one of the most important things to understand is who is giving the feedback and what their motivations may be. Do not spend too much time digging but do take a few moments to pick apart why the specific source of negative feedback is negative. Reflect on the interactions you had with that person. Often times, negative feedback comes from a stark difference between the giver and receiver of the feedback. Differences in style, tone and disparate frames of reference are often behind negative feedback. Knowing some of the "back story" of the giver can help you put the feedback in perspective.

Accept Specific Constructive, Dismiss Vague or Ambiguous

When seeking feedback, always give room for explanation. That way you can get at the "color commentary" around what is driving the answers. When you get negative feedback, accept specific constructive comments. Those comments give you something to build on or work with. I recently had a survey on a project come back where I specifically asked about how we were managing time. The responder gave me a good rating (there were better choices) and then wrote that I needed to "build in more breaks." Regardless, the reason I did not build in the breaks  -now I know that is an important driver to the answer of that question. I can do something with that. On the flip side, you have to let go of vague, negative feedback. Let it sting, feel it but if the giver the feedback does not show you how you can make it better, then there is nothing you can do but shake it off.

Focus On Your Overall Feedback Versus The Outlier(s)

The tendency in this life is to focus on the one dissenter. People spend many fruitless hours trying to convince the one person who dislikes their work versus focuses on the many who do. Unless your overall feedback from a specific project is all negative, you need to spend more time on the positive feedback. Build on the good comments and responses. Look for ways to reinforce the relationship with those who like and understand your methods. On the same survey I referenced in the previous point, I had one bad overall review and it stung. I kept playing in my head the responses until I remembered that it was one out of 18 participants in the project. All the other responses were good. Some even gave constructive comments to help me get better while the one person who responded negatively did not take the time to tell me why. My time and effort is much better spent focusing on how to improve and move forward relationships with the other 17 people and let the one person go.

Feedback, both positive and negative, is a necessary function of doing life. However, feedback by its nature should always seek to improve both the receiver and the giver. The next time you receive negative feedback, take a few minutes to look for the ways it can improve you.

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