3 Steps to Bounce Back, Even Look Great, After Negative Feedback
By Crystal Jonas
“I have so blown it!” Annie said as I invited questions in our seminar on emotional intelligence.
“No worries,” I replied. “You can recover from just about anything. Tell me more.”
“Well, I’m one of those people who is really straightforward. I say what needs to be said. My style is blunt. For the most part, that’s really worked well for me. That is, until last week. After a meeting, my boss pulled me aside and told me I had been pushy. Pushy! I’m thinking, ‘What, more so than usual?’”
After Annie assured me she didn’t really ask if she’d been more pushy that usual, I told her that her situation is salvageable.
Years ago, when I was giving a seminar on stress management for a manufacturing company, one of the participants asked if I could give some tips on not taking negative feedback personally.
“No,” I replied. “I take it personally too, and I haven’t figured out how to not let it affect me.”
“Actually,” someone replied, “You’re supposed to let it affect you. That’s pretty much the point, to change your behavior as a result of the feedback.”
Wow, think about it. Good point! Just when I think I teach because I have so much to share, I need to remind myself to listen, because I have so much to learn.
Since that day, I’ve been helping people take negative feedback into consideration. Not to take it too personally, but to consider if you might be able to learn and grow from the input.
In fact, depending on what you do, you can actually look good after getting negative feedback.
Consider this: For professional development, the fastest way to improve on the job is to listen to and act on feedback.
Unfortunately, not everyone delivers negative feedback well, which makes listening with an open mind harder. Not everyone has the open mind and the willingness to learn and grow that you do, so don’t expect that as your communication skills get better, others’ will too!
However, regardless of how the ideas are delivered, it’s to your advantage to stay tuned in for potentially helpful information.
While it feels great when the boss loves absolutely everything you’re doing, how do you know what adjustments to make if you don’t hear new ideas? Those new ideas call for you to change your current way of doing things.
Why would adjustments be important? Remember that “what got you here will not get you there.” If you are determined to take your life to a higher level of accomplishment, you need a fresh approach. What you’ve been doing up to now is exactly the right formula to be exactly where you are now.
A new altitude needs a new attitude and new actions.
Sometimes it’s hard not to take criticism too personally, especially when you know how much you’re trying to do your best. The goal is to set aside the urge to defend yourself and to be receptive to the input that can help you improve quickly. You do like quick results, yes?
Follow the three steps below and you will know not only how to feel better and perform better after negative feedback, but you’ll see how your response to criticism can actually make you look good, so you can be respected even more than you are now. Bonus!
To look good after negative feedback, and to use the information as an opportunity for rapid professional growth, there are three steps you need to remember:
Step One: When you get negative feedback ask yourself, “Is this fact or opinion?”
With this initial step, you’re getting some emotional distance, which helps you not take the criticism too personally.
Step Two: Ask yourself, “Does this opinion matter in this context?”
First, of course, if your boss said it, it matters! Second, notice the words “in this context.” You’ll want to remind yourself that in paying attention to the feedback of others, you consider their comments in the right “context.” For example, your boss may say you’re pushy in meetings. This doesn’t mean when you’re with friends you cannot be the same blunt, call-it-like-you-see-it person you’ve always been. That’s a different context, yes?
Step Three: Say out loud your version of this: “I’ve never looked at it that way. What suggestions do you have for me in the future?”
Let’s say you’re the boss, and you give someone you manage this feedback: “Chris, the degree to which you were assertive in that meeting isn’t working in your favor.” Chris says, “Wow, I’d hadn’t looked at it like that before. What tips do you have for me in the future?”
Wow! How would you perceive Chris? Perhaps you’re thinking you’d see Chris as respectful, professional, interested in improving, and open to your input. And that’s exactly how you will be perceived when you follow these three steps for bouncing back and even looking good after negative feedback.
Warning: Do not ask for examples of what you did “wrong.” This only serves to remind the boss again of all he or she didn’t like in the first place!
Be future focused and ask for ideas for the future. You will come away not only with valuable input into the boss’s perspective of your behavior, but with an even better professional image.
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I also have that blunt direct way of saying things. this article was really helpful. sometimes i'm surprised when feelings are hurt by how i say things. i've been working on it but sometimes just don't address anything at all to keep from sounding pushy or controling. thanks
What if your boss is very negative, then says you are? What if they are driven by their emotions every day and you have to steer around his/her moods? But then they make up what you said and the feelings behind it, without making sure that is what you meant because they are insecure and quick to get angry? For example, they say you are too quiet sometimes and too talkative sometimes too... and you have no clear direction on what you're supposed to be like, because it seems they want to control you and their requests are based on opinion, not fact... I think examples are needed sometimes for a clear understanding but they have no examples that are clear or backed up.
What great steps to consider.
I have seen the results of this article first hand since I was promoted to supervisor. I have a couple employees who are always defensive when I am trying to help them grow. This is irritating to me. When a manager gives you negative feedback, the best thing you can do is listen, thank them, and work to not continue doing the same thing in the future.
This is great advise. I plan on practicing it and sharing it with my colleagues.
Thanks for sharing this! What a wonderful reminder that , me a female working in a predominately male workplace, would take negative feedback personally. I have the tendency to "fix" the problem by removing myself from the event or situation all together. This is not a healthy solution I have found, so thanks for the article.
I heard someone say once our critics can be our best teachers.
This is a great article, Crystal! I work in PR and had a wonderful year-and-a-half working under the direction of a licensed clinical social worker who was at the time in the position of VP or Organizational Development. He was less o a supervisor, and more of a career coach and mentor. When facing tough criticism or challenges, he would always tell me to first remove emotion from the equation. This isn't always easy, but it makes the facts much clearer and allows you to use the information more effectively. It's easy to take things personally, and even easier to believe that everyone sees the world from our viewpoint.
Wow, this is the first time I remember seeing this newsletter and it's great! Not sure how to tweet it, or I would.
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