Whether it’s a performance review, notes from a client, or comments on your presentation - negative feedback stings. Sometimes the feedback is direct and constructive. Other times, it may be vengeful or reach you by way of gossip. It might be about the quality of your work, the originality of your ideas or even how someone thinks you come across to others.
No matter what form it takes and what part of you it’s focused on, it can knock the wind out of you - especially if it’s delivered by someone you respect and/or admire.
Negative feedback is hard to swallow because when we hear it, our brains sound the alarm that we’ve somehow failed and we’re being rejected. When this happens, we go into the classic fight-or-flight response which inhibits our ability to learn.
This also means that when we’re in this heightened defensive state, we lose the ability to discern what’s actually true for us and what’s being filtered through the other person’s definition of excellence. And someone else’s standards will always be subject to their own limited experience, opinions or mood.
Here are some tips you can put into practice that will teach you how to receive negative feedback and choose a confident response.
1. Don't respond immediately. Catch your reflex to respond and regain amygdala control. Remind yourself this is only one person’s perspective, not necessarily the truth.
2. Ask qualifying questions. “Can you help me better understand your feedback by providing an example?” This will give you more context as well as call someone’s bluff if they created a false belief. It may also indicate something that is triggering your behavior that you can learn to avoid or be on the lookout for.
3. Search for the truth. Get past the method and decode the message. See if there is any learning or if you should seek other people’s opinions.
4. Choose if and how you want to respond. Don’t be afraid to just say thank you and ignore it all. You get to decide what to do with the feedback and one of those choices is to disagree with it. Any declaration of choice is confidence-building no matter what you decide.