Like it or not, negative feedback exists as part of our work life in the IT service profession. But how you handle it can make a big impact on outcomes, and in fact your career! Here we will look at how to turn the negatives into positives, the best ways to handle bad feedback, and how you can change your perspective.
Listen more effectively
When we receive criticism, our fight or flight response will often kick in. We will either become defensive (fight), or tune out, blocking out what is being said to us (flight). This can be a real problem when receiving feedback in person. But if you can work to switch off this physiological reaction by focusing your thoughts, you will be able to listen far more effectively.
Proper listening will help you to hear what is actually being said. Control any urges to interrupt and listen very carefully. Make quick notes if you need to (though remember eye contact is one of the key ingredients of effective listening). And when your client or customer is done speaking be sure to thank them for sharing their perspective. By responding rather than reacting you put yourself in a much better position to take onboard what is really being said.
Remove the emotion
There’s no doubt about it, critical reviews and negative project feedback can be painful. It can be both emotionally and financially harmful, and can often feel like a personal attack. But you must not take it that way. Even if your feelings have been damaged by the feedback, it is essential that you do not react defensively or emotionally as this could take you down a destructive path.
The easiest way to distance your emotional self is to pause, take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that this is not an attack on you as a person. Accept the feedback with openness and take your time to digest it before responding.
Seeking an outsider’s viewpoint can also be of benefit. A neutral party can assist you with removing the emotion, and help you digest and process bad feedback. They may even be able to proofread your reply correspondence and guide your response.
Better your understanding
Key to onboarding the comments is bettering your understanding. Negative feedback is all too easily blown out of proportion when it is misunderstood. In order to gain a mutual understanding, you should ask questions, and request context and specific examples. Not only will this change the trajectory of the feedback, avoiding any drama, but will also improve your position for finding a solution. Be sure to ask the right questions in order to receive informative answers.
Questioning should not feel like an interrogation. It should be done calmly, and in a way which allows for an honest conversation. Receiving the comments with an openness can help the other party to communicate their viewpoint clearly too. Clarity is essential for improving your understanding of the feedback, for diagnosing the issue and for problem solving.
Take a different viewpoint
Hopefully by now you are working towards being on the same page as the person delivering the feedback. That is not to say you have to agree with them, but that you can see their viewpoint.
Change your perspective by applying empathy and putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. Aim to understand how they are feeling, and the impact the problem is having. This can help you with accepting their feedback.
Acknowledgement of their emotions can go a long way to displaying your understanding too. Use phrases such as “I would feel disappointed as well” to demonstrate you recognise their standpoint. This can go a long way to reestablishing and rebuilding strong relationships. As can an apology, so long as it is sincere.
If you are in a mindset where you are ready to collaborate on a solution then by all means, do. But there is no harm in giving yourself a little more time. After all, bad feedback is a tough bombshell to absorb. Let the other person know you are going to think upon your conversation and get back to them.
Turn this negative situation into a positive. There is sure to be a lesson to learn from this feedback. Take some time to reflect on the issue at hand, what could have been done differently, and how you can ensure this problem doesn’t reoccur going forward. As the saying goes, we learn more from our failures than from our successes.