How to Respond to Critical Feedback

Feedback is a gift. Critical feedback, especially, can be valuable as it allows us to reflect on our performance and signal any changes we need to make to improve. People who seek out evaluations and critical feedback are seen as more effective than those who are only seeking out positive feedback.

Accepting and processing critical feedback can be difficult. It can cause people to be defensive, angry, and self-conscious, which can negatively affect work performance. While navigating the critical feedback we receive, it is important to identify what is sincere and what should be filtered out. Critical feedback can frequently be given objectively with sincere motives, but can also come from those with nefarious intentions.

Would you like to handle hearing feedback better? Read on for tips to help you hear critical feedback openly, decipher sincerity, and implement improvements without damaging your confidence and self-concept.

  • Be slow to react

Renowned psychologist William Swann said that when humans receive feedback that conflicts with our self-image, we “suffer the severe disorientation and psychological anarchy that occurs when [we] recognize that [our] very existence is threatened”.

So how can we work to change the way we see critical feedback? One way is to acknowledge and label how you feel after receiving critical feedback. Identify if you are feeling blindsided, insecure, or scared. You can also practice self-affirmation. Perhaps your team described you as a micromanager on the evaluation. Remind yourself that you are a supportive friend, dedicated member of your community, loving parent, and committed spouse. Take a minute to see yourself as the whole, well-rounded person that you are and put the feedback in its proper perspective. Then decide how to respond.

  • Gain a better understanding

We cannot act on feedback until we truly understand. Especially when you are learning something new, it is important to ask trustworthy people if they are noticing the same behaviors. This action can provide more detail to help better understand but can also help to overcorrect based on one person’s opinion.

Find a few trustworthy people who will be critical but honest with you. When you can turn to this circle of critics, you can paint a better picture of how others are viewing you and your actions.

  • Reset your relationships

Receiving critical feedback can cause us to feel isolated and uncomfortable. Many people will want to avoid those that gave them negative feedback. However, you can change your mindset to pull those who are honest and sincere with you even closer. Engaging in open communication to better understand the given feedback and create dialogue about how to move forward. Here are a few steps that may be applicable to your situation:

  1. Thank your coworkers for their feedback
  2. Apologize for any part you had in the observed negative behaviors
  3. Discuss future expectations and possible solutions

As you work on responding to critical feedback in a calm, receptive manner you may be surprised by how understanding your coworkers will be. Sometimes the best way to respond to criticism is to admit our flaws (first to ourselves, then to others) and focus on ways to improve.

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