10 Steps to Help Deal with Negative Feedback

Receiving negative feedback is never nice. But it often can be a positive experience. Here's how to make negative feedback benefit you.

How to deal with negative feedback?

Recieving negative feedback is something that happened to all of us at some point. What we have not all experienced, and I can look back on previous personal experience, is the best way to deal with it. How can you respond to someone looking upon your work negatively? What steps are best to take? No one likes receiving negative feedback, but it is there for our benefit. Now, it is possible to reason unfair negative feedback. But the focus of today's blog is to look at how to best respond to negative feedback, not how to respond to unfair feedback. With that covered, lets look at some steps you may want to take in order to get the most from negative feedback.

10 Steps to Help Deal with Negative Feedback

10 Steps to Help Deal with Negative Feedback

1. Pause First

This one happens to us all, so don’t feel like you are on your own. The natural reaction to any criticism is to respond defensively. This is true not just for workplace-based feedback. Now, we aren’t telling you not to respond defensively, as this is really hard to control. However, what you can control is pausing.

Pause when you hear the feedback. Listen to it. It may be the case that once you review the feedback, you can start to understand your supervisor's feedback.

2. Review the Feedback

Evaluate the feedback as objectively as possible. This will help you get the most out of your feedback. So, how do you do it? Firstly, listen to your reviewer. Ask for evidence and examples of the described behaviors, so that you can get more clarity on the feedback.

3. Negative Feedback is Positive!

There are so many reasons to view negative feedback in a positive light. Firstly, negative feedback means that your manager or supervisor cares about you. They want you to improve and they are motivated to see you develop. If they were not bothered, they would have given bland, neutral feedback.

Negative feedback is an eye-opener for you. It’s great to hear positive feedback and be recognizedbut negative feedback helps you to identify areas which need improving. While it may be bitter to swallow, if you want to improve, you need to hear what you’re not so good at.

4. Don’t React Defensively

During a feedback meeting, it is likely that you might feel slightly attacked when given negative feedback.

Reacting defensively is normal. You have a choice in your reaction though. Try not to respond with, ‘that’s incorrect’ or ‘no, you’re wrong’. Pause for a short-time, and come back with a measured response. Giving yourself time will allow you to process the feedback. It is rather easy to interpret comments in a way that they were not meant. Give yourself time to think, and come back measured.

5. Don’t React Impulsively

Receiving particularly negative, emotion inducing or critical feedback is tough. You may want to react in the moment to defend yourself. In order to make feedback more effective and in order for you to look professional, try to avoid reacting impulsively when hearing critical feedback.

6. Ask for Exemplary Behavior

If your manager has given you areas where you need to improve, ask for specifics. Ask for where you haven’t been up to scratch. Why weren’t you up to scratch in that area and how do you improve? Ask for exemplary behaviour in that area so you can give yourself a target to reach.

7. Ask Questions

Asking questions is particularly useful. Firstly, it follows on from the classic saying, ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’. If you don’t ask questions, you won’t receive the desired benefits.

  • What areas aren’t I improving in?
  • How can I get better at X?
  • What do I need to get better at this?
  • Who is an expert in this field?
  • Can I work more closely with an individual to improve?

Secondly, asking questions eliminates the perception of defensiveness or impulsivity. Instead questions allow you to pause, and provide you with the opportunity to understand and clarify feedback.

8. Ask for Time

Ask for a bit of time to review the feedback. Managers shouldn’t expect you to assimilate negative feedback and respond immediately. We aren’t telling you to take a few weeks and come back to your manager. It is essential to respond quickly, but ask for time to respond appropriately, and in order for you to properly assimilate the negative feedback.

Asking for time prevents you from reacting defensively or impulsively. It also conveys the message to your manager, that you are properly considering what they have to say. And for you, it gives you time to consider the validity and appropriateness of the feedback.

9. Take Action

Following on from the point that negative feedback is actually positive, you need to take action. Take accountability for the areas you need to improve. Own your prior actions and take action for the areas which have been identified as your weaknesses.

10. Move on

An important one to finish, try not to get hung up on the criticism. Do not get too down on negative feedback. Absorb the reasoning, take on board the lessons, implement actions to improve and move on more positive from the feedback.

Negative feedback is not easy to hear at first. And we aren’t saying it should be. however negative feedback when provided correctly, has the potential to do a lot of good. We’ve tried to provide some steps to make sure you get the most out of the feedback if it is ever negative.

Joseph Garvey

Joseph Garvey

Content Team

6 minute readPublished on February 28, 2020

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