When humans are confronted with negative feedback, there is an actual physical response. We tense up, our face gets red and our breathing gets shallower. On top of that physiological response, we have strong mental responses and our ego becomes so threatened it begins to limit the information that is let into our brains. We regulate to avoid taking in harsh critiques.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! We can retrain our brains and bodies to crave negative feedback and harness it to improve ourselves. That starts with improving the way we react. We all receive feedback on our performance—some positive and some negative. It may be tough to hear from your boss, co-workers or clients but negative feedback doesn’t have the power to stall our career, an unwillingness to absorb and act on it does. You absolutely MUST learn to use it to propel yourself to the next level of success. Here’s how!
1. Remember – it’s not personal!
Feedback is the main avenue toward growth. Yet when you first hear that someone thinks you can improve on something, it may come as a surprise. In the beginning, you may be totally unaware that there was a need for improvement at all.
But remember, defense is the first act of war. This is NOT war, it’s work and it’s important to realize everyone is participating in good faith.
Commit to responding to the feedback with openness and willingness. Provide a response such as, “I would like to do whatever I can to change that and find a way forward” or “I have noticed that about myself, too. Can you help me with that?” Own your actions and demonstrate that you are ready to resolve it. Once you are at a point of gratitude for the feedback, you are able to grow and learn!
2. Stop fighting the facts.
When faced with a setback, we tend to argue with the reality of the situation and begin to create our own story about our circumstances—that story often stars ourselves as the helpless victim with everyone else out to get us. Contrary to what we might believe, arguing with the facts of the situation is a complete waste of time, resources, and energy. When we are in our story, we read into the situation, assign motive and make assumptions about what’s happened—most of which is likely untrue and not rooted in reality.
Work, instead, to conserve energy by understanding the lesson at hand and respond in ways that will help, rather than hurt, your career. Be a lover of reality and take action to quickly improve your performance.
3. Stay in your lane, aka focus on yourself.
You know the facts and have accepted them. Now it’s time to focus on your actions, assumptions, choices, etc. and resist the need to point out how others were involved in the poor outcome. Focusing on others only slows your progress in learning the fullest sense of the lesson at hand. Get the most out of the experience by focusing only on what you can impact.
4. Reframe the situation.
Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of the negative feedback (which is pretty hard!), try thinking of the positive aspects. Ask yourself to identify three positive reasons as to why this setback or “growing pain” might be happening in your life right now. Consider the possibility of a positive end result and get busy working toward it.
Start to invite feedback, even when you know it might be negative, and then focus on the way you respond. Ask your feedback provider to rate your response: Were you open or were you defensive? Internalize their response. Always respond by thanking them.
5. Drive for results and learning.
By facing facts and taking accountability for how you got here, you move from being a victim of circumstance to a professional who can account for the many actions and thoughts that led to the current results. What freedom! You can now take responsibility, learn the less gain clarity on what to do differently and learn how to produce better results in the future.
So the next time you receive harsh feedback, acknowledge that it can be hard to hear, but don’t sulk and shut down. Even if you’re given a C for performance, you can still earn an A for improvement. And eventually, you can retrain your brain to actively seek out that feedback so you associate it not with anxiety, but with opportunity.