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7 tips for accepting negative feedback and learning from it

7 tips for accepting negative feedback and learning from it

We love to hear all of the great feedback on what we’ve done well. Most of the time, it’s not difficult to hear how amazing we are at our work!

The difficulty comes from when we have to accept the negative feedback without becoming defensive and emotional.

After all, it’s human nature for our minds to want to defend us. We consider the feedback to see if we agree and often our minds want to argue with it. It’s much harder to face the negative as it challenges us to think in different ways and see the situation through different eyes.

At POD HR & Training, we believe that feedback is one of the most valuable tools in business. We answer questions about feedback, both positive and negative, every day.

We know how valuable it can be and we want everyone to benefit from it, whether you pay for us to come in to your company and guide you or you just use our free resources to train yourself.

There’s always something to learn from feedback, so I wanted to write an article to provide you with some tips to getting the most out of feedback.

Here are your 7 tips that will get you accepting negative feedback like a pro, and going on to learn incredible things from it.

Giving feedback for someones work

1.    Listen and wait

It can be incredibly tempting to cut in and start putting your point across as soon as the negative comments flow. When you do this, you’re probably going to miss out on some vital parts.

You need to listen carefully to everything that’s said with an open mind and wait until they either finish or specifically ask for your comments.

There’s no need to rush. Let them express everything they need to. It’s not easy getting feedback, but it’s certainly not easy giving it either so keep that in mind. Give them the space to express themselves freely.

If you don’t, the person giving you feedback will get irritated and will be far harsher and more assertive than before. You don’t want to ruin the relationship you have with this person (leading to MORE negative feedback!).

What happens if you wait and listen? Respect. You’ll gain their respect and appreciation and they’ll feel like they can approach you in the future. That way, if they feel you’re doing something wrong in the future they’ll be able to talk to you much sooner before it becomes an issue, resulting in less formal negative feedback.

There’s so much power in listening. With great listening comes great understanding, and you’ll learn far more if you all understand each other.

2.    No failure, only feedback

Just as life is a journey, so is business.

It’s not the end of the world to get feedback on how you can do something better. We’re all on a path with constant choices about how we can become better versions of ourselves. If someone has something to say that indicates you have things to learn, this is NOT a failure.

In fact, you should take it as a compliment (bear with me here!)

Think about your favourite restaurant. This restaurant represents great value and you’ve been there several times and have some good memories in it. The food is exactly the kind of thing you love and if you had to, you’d happily go there all the time.

What happens if one night you go and the atmosphere isn’t as fantastic as usual? Perhaps the service is unusually slow and the food isn’t quite up to scratch.

Would you give up going to your favourite restaurant forever because of one experience?

Now, I don’t know you, but I’m betting you’d likely give it another chance if it’s your favourite restaurant.

Instead of crossing it off your list forever, you have the option of giving the staff a bit of feedback. Let them know how much you love going there and make them aware that on this occasion, it wasn’t quite what you wanted.

This gives them a chance to learn from what they did wrong and get better. The likelihood is that something went wrong that day (maybe a chef was ill and didn’t come into work, or they were short staffed), but this feedback gives them the chance to learn.

So, back to you. If someone takes the time to give you feedback, they’re choosing to eat in your restaurant again. They want to keep you around. All they want to do is to let you know that on this occasion, things were a little less sweet.

The fact that they’re investing this time and effort in you means that you’re worth it.

They could just disappear, leave, or avoid you. Instead, they’re opening up and creating a positive communication path for you both.

So next time you get some negative feedback, keep in mind that this is not a failure. You’ll be far more receptive to the feedback and you’ll remain much calmer and relaxed.

Two people giving advice to each other about their work

3.    Show gratitude

This is a big deal. Teaching people how to give feedback is one of the biggest areas of our leadership development training as it can be really difficult for people, so be thankful.

I know it can be very difficult to thank someone when you feel you’re just getting negative comments thrown at you but it will help you so much more to be grateful than spiteful.

Show them that you appreciate the feedback and that you’re glad they’ve spoken to you about it so that you can learn from it.

Gratitude isn’t just about words, either.

Have you ever had someone say thank you to you and it feels false? It’s almost worse than someone not saying thank you at all.

Nothing that feels fake will help you. To build incredible relationships, authenticity is key.

I’m not asking you to get better at lying here. I mean that you genuinely need to find reasons to thank them authentically!

To do this, you need to work on yourself internally. Re-read the top 2 tips and really understand them. If you do this, you’ll already be on your way to being grateful for feedback.

Once you show gratitude, you’ll open doors to improved relationships.

4.    Accept the lessons

Once you’ve learnt to listen, wait, and show your gratitude, you’re ready to accept the lesson they’re giving you.

Let them know you’ve heard them and you’ve accepted the feedback and you’re going to implement the changes.

Empathy is useful at this stage. You need to understand their view and situation and let them know what you’ve taken from the discussion, as well as how you will use it in the future.

Why is this important? Because the person giving the feedback will feel valued and that it was worth their time and effort investing in you.

Consequently, they’ll be happy to communicate with you in the future and it will strengthen your relationship.

What you shouldn’t do is argue back, disagree, or point out why they’re wrong. Even if you believe it to be true. It’s a sure-fire way to destruct the relationship.

The most powerful people can be humble in the face of feedback. When you’re defensive, you’ll appear weaker and less courageous.

Hold your head high, respect that they see things differently, and appreciate their viewpoint and opinion. This reflects strength, courage, resilience, and power. All attributes the most powerful people should strive for.

If you want to be respected in business, accept the learning. I promise you, it will pay dividends.

Group of people working together to improve their work

5.    Watch out for your body language

If your body language is closed or disinterested, this will not go down well!

It’s highly unlikely that a successful interaction will come out of it. You’re basically letting them know you’re not going to be receptive to anything they have to say.

Going into any feedback situation, show you’re engaged by mirroring their body language, looking directly at them, and removing any barriers between you.

Avoid folding your arms, turning your body away, or keeping a laptop in front of you. This may sound obvious, but I’ve seen it happen tonnes of times and it instantly breaks the rapport and connection you have.

Research shows that over 50% of what we communicate is based on nonverbal communication so be aware and mindful of your body.

When you’re conscious of your communication, your interactions will become far more meaningful.

6.    Avoid giving your own feedback unless there’s a set structure for it

You’ve listened. You’ve taken it in. You’ve accepted it and you’re ready to implement it. Great!

Now is NOT the time to turn it back on them, especially if you’re feeling a little fragile after getting your negative feedback.

If possible, it’s advisable to avoid the ‘tick for tack’ approach. Focus on what they’ve expressed to you and don’t try and take the stage to outshine them, or put them in the hot seat. Not only will it make you look defensive, but it’ll feel like retaliation to them.

Of course, when you’re specifically asked for feedback, such as in a performance review, you should absolutely give your two cents.

Just bear in mind that the feedback you give should not sound like you’re retaliating to their comments. Be aware and considered in how you respond and how they’re likely to take it.

7.    Follow up later

When they leave the room, they’ll think that it’s all over and will wonder whether you’re actually going to take everything on board.

Rather than waiting for them to follow up with you, wouldn’t it be incredible for YOU to be the one following up?

You can drop them a quick email saying something like..

‘Thanks again for the feedback today. I really appreciate it and I’m happy you’ve made me aware of the issue because now I can learn from it. I look forward to implementing the changes we discussed and would appreciate your feedback in the future.’

What an impact that would make!

If the person had any concerns about how things would be moving forwards, you’ve just busted them. This leaves both parties free to enjoy an interactive, productive, and valuable business relationship.

people giving feedback in a group setting

There you have it. 7 tips to take feedback like a pro!

I hope you’ve found this useful and start to implement these great tips as soon as possible. Communication is so important, which is why we like to share free tips and actionable advice on this subject every week. If you want to receive more content that can help you, sign up to our weekly newsletter below!

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