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How to Deal with Negative Feedback

Life is an open book and at some point, if you haven’t already, you will discover that we have little control over what happens to us. We sometimes don’t know how to respond to a particular situation. One example is receiving negative feedback.

At any time we may receive negative feedback. Negative feedback has two parts to it – how we perceive it and how we respond to it. Understanding the process can help you prepare for it when it happens.

Your perception, the meaning you attach to what happens to you, determines how you respond to the negative feedback. If you merge your identity with your career, negative feedback can be a blow to your self-esteem if you receive a negative performance evaluation. Understanding the simple fact that it is not what happens to us but what it means to us makes the difference in not only how you perceive negative feedback but also how you respond to it.

Before responding to negative feedback, you have a choice to reframe it in a manner that will prevent you from reacting and enable you to respond in a measured way. For example, for the person who merged his identity with his career, the reframing thought would be, “I have done my best to do my job over the years; this negative feedback may provide me the opportunity to learn, grow and acquire new skills to do my job and improve my performance.” Once you have reframed your mindset, you are ready to respond with an open and receptive mind. The following guidelines will help you in responding:

  • Listen: Although you may disagree with the person, there may be some basis for the feedback and you need to know about it.
  • Restrain from reacting: If you react, you will not be able to learn from the negative feedback.
  • Make sure you understand what is being conveyed to you: Restate the issues in your own words to ensure you understand the concerns regarding your work.
  • Thank the person for giving the negative feedback: Convey to the person that you appreciate the feedback and tell them you want to spend some time to think about it.
  • Analyze the feedback: Sort the truths from untruths, gauge the motive of the person and usefulness of the negative feedback.
  • Get input from people you trust: Talk to a trusted friend and/or a seasoned professional for their input and be prepared to accept your imperfections.
  • Respond with a positive outlook: Outline the points on which you agree or disagree with the feedback and give your reasons for it in a constructive manner, and present your plan for future improvement.
  • Set goals to improve your performance: Set specific goals for a plan of action. Keep your superior informed of your progress.

When you look at negative feedback with a positive outlook, it becomes a powerful incentive for you to improve your performance and it will also improve the quality of your life.