How do I respond to negative feedback?

None of us like to be criticized. We’re only human. But the important thing to remember when you’re receiving less-than-glowing feedback is feedback is good. It is your friend. How else would you know if you’re doing something wrong? How else would you learn about a better way to accomplish a goal? How else would you grow professionally?

So, feedback is good. When receiving negative feedback, try to keep in mind these simple things:

Listen. Listen closely. Hear everything the person is telling you. Try not to interrupt with “but…but…” Listen and hear.

Take a moment. Try to remain calm and professional. It’s very easy (and perfectly natural) to immediately get defensive. Resist that urge. Take a moment. In fact, take a few hours if you need to. “Thank you for bringing that to my attention. Do you mind if I consider this for a day and get back to you tomorrow morning?” Then be sure and get back to them.

Be collaborative in your response. Take the attitude that we’re solving a problem here and we’re working together. Giving criticism is very hard for most managers and they may not be at their best when doing it. You’ll earn points by staying calm and professional. Welcome the feedback and ask what you can do to resolve the issue. “I appreciate your comments. How can I do better?”

If you made a mistake, apologize. Then let it go.

It’s also okay to provide information to the manager that they may not have. “Yes you’re right, I did give Project X priority based on instructions from [another manager or higher-up]. Was that the wrong call or should I check with you in the future before proceeding?”

Consider the source. If the person giving the feedback is someone you generally respect and admire, then give the proper weight and attention to the feedback. This is something you’ll want to hear and respond to. If the person giving the feedback to someone who is generally a blow-hard egomaniac, then you should still respond professionally and remain calm. “I appreciate your comments!” Then move on.

The most important thing to remember – and we know it’s very hard to remember this when you’re on the receiving end of a rant from an angry boss – is that these comments will ultimately make you better at your job and help you grow professionally. And when your boss sees your openness and responsiveness to feedback, you’ll undoubtedly get more – both constructive and positive!