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Dealing with Critical Feedback


By Erika Osmundson,


YOU’VE JUST RECEIVED a piece of critical feedback and aren’t sure how to move forward. Obviously hearing that you’ve done something wrong or displeasing to someone else is hard to handle (for most people). Some can let negative feedback roll right off their backs, but for those that can’t, how do you make positive steps forward?


First, do you have a true and accurate understanding of what the feedback means? Critical feedback can come in heated discussions or moments of heightened emotion. Facts might not always be straight. We can tell ourselves stories in our heads to increase the magnitude.


Take a moment to reflect on the things that were shared. You may need to step away from the discussion for a bit, but don’t wait too long, or the situation can fester. Ask yourself if you fully understand what was discussed. If not, what are the points that you are unsure of and need more explanation? Ask questions. Have a candid conversation to clear up any misinformation. Most often, feedback is really about the result not the person. Identifying this, if it is the case, can help to tame personal emotion and reaction to critical feedback.


Once you know what the issue is, identify if and in what ways you can address the situation in the future. Create a game plan and follow through. If you are unsure if or how to make steps to correct the situation, brainstorm some ideas or alternate options. Then propose those back to the person that provided the feedback and ask for input.


Finally, reflect. What did you learn? How will you use that information to make changes next time? What did you learn in the feedback communication process? How will you implement what you’ve learned for the future?


Critical feedback that is constructive and for the betterment of the situation/ business is one thing. Unconstructive feedback is another. Understand the difference. If feedback seems personally attacking or demeaning, you may need to consider your options. In extreme cases, consult with your HR team for advice.


Feedback should be a good thing, both positive and critical. It is what helps us grow. It helps us move beyond our norms and try new things. Feedback creates the change we need to drive business forward!