Tips for Handling Negative Feedback

Business hand thumb up with true and false sign. Vector illustration of positive and negative feedback concept. Minimal and flat design

At some point in our lives, whether it is work, family, or friend related, we all receive negative feedback.  Feedback can throw us off guard, making us feel defensive and perceiving the feedback as an attack.  It can be hard to listen to and consider even when you know you deserve the critique.  So how can someone change his or her state of mind to view the feedback as a positive opportunity?

Step one: reach down deep into your emotional intelligence and welcome the news.  Frame the feedback as an opportunity to work on something that will help you achieve greater success.  You may want to disagree with the feedback at first, but strive to commit to the possibility that the messenger may be correct in their observation.  Respect and gratitude should be your default setting.

Step two: sometimes we have to check our egos at the door to see what we can learn from the feedback.  Reactions come from our egos–openness comes from our commitment to work towards a greater goal.  Always reply to feedback with openness and a willingness to change.

Step three: when you are struggling with accepting feedback, try responding with one of these five responses to help put you in a better frame of mind and to treat the messenger with respect:

  • Thank you for caring enough about me to give me that feedback.
  • I have noticed that about myself too, and it is something I am working on.
  • Will you help me to improve?
  • I am willing to see if I can find some truth in that.
  • I used to think that about myself, too, and here is what I did to change it.

Using these statements will help you center yourself and aid in neutralizing your defenses.

Step four: move from thinking of yourself as the victim to a professional who can account for the actions and thoughts that led to the feedback.  Figure out how to grow, otherwise the feedback may continue to repeat itself over-and-over until you have grown.

Step five: focus on yourself, your development, your assumptions, and the choices and actions that can help you grow and improve.  Do not spend time placing blame, or trying to justify the situation, as it will limit your progress and compound the negativity.

Last, I often question myself “Can those around me identify my personal values and goals by watching my behavior?”  As an evolving servant leader, I attempt to focus on what I can give versus what I can get.  By being open to feedback as an opportunity to improve, by placing the needs of others before my needs, I find greater happiness, energy, and fulfillment.

Written by Cape Coral resident Mike “Q” Quaintance, MBA, Business Department Chair, Keiser University, Fort Myers