Having Trouble Dealing With Negative Feedback? Don't Be So Quick to React

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No one likes receiving negative feedback, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to handle it. Unfortunately, lots of people fall into the latter camp, which can turn an annual performance review at work into an annual nightmare for all parties involved.

“I’ve seen just about every possible reaction to critical feedback,” Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist and executive coach, writes for the Harvard Business Review. “Some especially memorable responses have included punching a wall, accusing me of making their feedback up, and crying so uncontrollably that we had to reschedule the session.”

That’s because criticism, however constructive it may be, often challenges the image we have of ourselves. Improved self-awareness is one way to overcome that. For Eurich’s new book, Insight, she and a team of researchers interviewed people who had sought out constructive feedback at work and “made dramatic improvements in their self-awareness.”

What they discovered was a pattern: Those who took days or weeks to digest the feedback they had received were better off for it, with many taking the comments to heart and actively working to improve themselves. Through a process known as cognitive reappraisal, some of the participants worked to change their perception of the feedback itself. What may have seemed upsetting or unfair at first was reevaluated and ultimately deemed to be helpful in some way.

Leadership development expert Loren Margolis told Forbes it’s okay to request time to process the feedback, but always schedule a follow-up to discuss the issues raised. “While you’re processing it, write down your thoughts and the actual feedback,” Margolis says. “Think through some of the questions you’d like to ask in advance of your next meeting.”

Mark Murphy, the author of Hiring for Attitude, also stressed the importance of self-awareness in an interview with Fast Company, explaining that “high-performers are way more open to feedback than the low-performers are.” The website also suggested “de-personalizing” the situation by viewing feedback as useful data rather than an attack on your character. Pay attention to the facts you’ve received rather than your emotional response to it, and compartmentalize the feedback by incorporating only what’s useful to you.

Still in need of a pep talk before your next performance review? Check out this infographic from Venngage featuring advice from 57 experts on how to handle negative feedback in a positive way.

[h/t Harvard Business Review]