Navigating Negative Feedback


We have all been there. We will all be there again. On the receiving end of negative feedback. Yep. Never fun. Never a fun conversation to have. Never a fun conversation to hear. But whether we are on the receiving end or the giving end (We will have to share on that topic another day!) it takes courage to face those kind of assessments and courage to respond positively and vulnerably to negative feedback. But when we are brave enough to face them we have an opportunity to grow, even if only through the confrontation alone.

Today we are sharing some things to consider when navigating negative feedback. How do we respond?

1. Stop
Usually our first reaction to negative feedback is to either go inward or outward. What I mean by that is we either go inward and deal with our emotions, or we go outward and deal with the person. Going inward usually results in a lot of shame and a lot of guilt. Going outward tends to lead us to being defensive and taking every opportunity we can to explain ourselves and justify any objections being presented to us.

In this moment of receiving negative feedback we need to stop. Stop jumping to conclusions. Stop assuming they are wrong and you are misunderstood. Stop the emotional self-talk that tells you you are a failure and just can't do anything right. Just stop. And listen. Listen to the feedback being given... and receive it. Too often when we are supposed to be receiving feedback we are actually having a whole other conversation with ourselves in our minds. Then we can walk away remembering more about how they made us feel and what we said to ourselves in response than what was actually stated.

Stop. Listen. Receive.

2. Process
I am not telling you to just listen to negative feedback without reasoning through it. The truth is they may have some of it wrong. BUT, they may have some of it right. Regardless of how unreasonable to feedback may be, there is probably some amount of truth somewhere in it.

After you have truly listened and received someone's negative feedback, then take time to process through it. Some of this may be able to happen with that person through asking follow up and clarifying questions, but some of it may require you to process through apart from them. One tip I have taken from Brene Brown's book, "Dare to Lead," is not to be afraid to take time to process. If someone gives you feedback you need more time to process through, let them know you will think about it and come back to them at a later time. But it is important to state a time you will come back to it. This lets that person know you have heard them, you understand them (through follow up questions), and you care enough to come back to this conversation when you are better prepared to do so.

A sub-point here is how to process through this negative feedback.

I think everyone processes through things differently. Some people need to process out loud. Some need to process by sorting through their emotions so they don't let how they feel cloud out an opportunity to grow. But regardless of how you process, here are some best practices for processing:

-Ask yourself where the negative feedback is coming from. Was it out of the blue? Were there clues that this conversation was coming?

-What do you disagree with?

-What do you agree with?

-Ask a few people you are close with if they see any of the stated negative aspects in your life?

-Is there an opportunity to grow here?

-Will this bring about personal growth?

-Will this bring about growth within this relationship?

3. Resolve
There are so many components that can come into play when handling negative feedback. Checking the source of the feedback. Is this a personal attack or is this actually meant to grow you? Regardless of the intent, I believe there is still a way to bring resolution to most situations. There may be cases when you have to agree to disagree as they say. But the resolution can still come when you have heard someone's feedback or concern, listened, processed, and taken it into consideration.

No matter the feedback, our goal should always be to save a relationship. Not to get on another topic/soap box completely, but I will say too often our immediate response to negative feedback is to dissolve a friendship/relationship with the person on the giving end. If we are taking the Biblical perspective, we should always do our best to resolve a disagreement and save a relationship.

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
Romans 12:18


Do you have any experience with navigating negative feedback? What advice would you give? Let us know in the comments below.

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