Handling Criticism and Negative Feedback

21.11.2019 |

Episode #8 of the course How to communicate like a pro by Patricia Haddock


“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” —Norman Vincent Peale


Welcome to today’s lesson. Yesterday, you worked on improving your ability to give feedback that produces results. Today, you will understand how to handle feedback in a professional manner.

Feedback is important for professional development. It shows how others think of you and your work, services, or behavior.

Criticism and negative feedback can be hard to accept, since it might be biased by the other person’s perspective. Regardless, you must graciously listen to it and evaluate its value.

You can’t control what others say about you or your work, but you can control your emotional response. The actual feedback is just one person’s opinion. Any emotional weight it carries is based on how you interpret it.

• Avoid feeling defensive by relaxing your muscles, especially your jaw, and breathe slowly.

• Listen carefully, ask for specific examples, and ask questions to clearly understand what you are hearing.

• Use neutral responses, such as, “You may be right,” or “I can see how you might think that.”

• Objectively evaluate the feedback. It may be valid if you have heard it from more than one person or you know it to be true. If it is both valid and important, put together an action to address it!

You want a positive way of releasing any anger or frustration that you may be feeling. If possible, find an outlet for your feelings by venting to a trusted friend, taking a walk, or hitting the gym. Stepping away from the situation lets you gain insight that will aid you in responding.

Best-selling author Joseph Grenny, writing in the Harvard Business Review [1], suggests identifying the story you are telling yourself in this way:

• Is it a victim story—one that emphasizes my virtues and absolves me of responsibility for what is happening?

• Is it a villain story—one that exaggerates the faults of others and attributes what’s happening to their evil motives?

• Is it a helpless story—one that convinces me that any healthy course of action (like listening humbly, speaking up honestly) is pointless?

You need a new story that makes you more resourceful—a story that lets you evaluate the criticism for its validity. When you view it objectively, it’s easier to identify valuable information that can be gleaned from it.

• Is the criticism directed at you personally or at something else, like a product or service that you delivered?

• Is it directed at information, ideas, or opinions that you shared?

• Is the criticism valid or not?

If the negative criticism has some merit and it often does, take the appropriate measures to improve. You may need to change your work techniques, address a misunderstanding, implement a new strategy, or modify how you deliver a product or service.


Action Steps

Step 1. Welcome feedback and criticism as opportunities to improve.

Step 2. Avoid becoming defensive or angry if someone criticizes you.

Step 3. Pay attention to the story you are telling yourself.

Step 4. Look for the value in feedback.

See you tomorrow. Your next lesson will give you the tools to help you create written documents that get the results you need.



Recommended books

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen

Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, et al.



[1] Harvard Business Review: “Four Ways to Control Your Emotions in Tense Moments” by Joseph Grenny


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