You’ve gotten feedback, now what?
Most of us appreciate getting feedback on how we can grow and improve. Sadly, the most helpful feedback can be found in the harsh criticisms of our boss or colleagues. When we feel unjustly attacked for an error or perceived slight it’s easy to slide into a negative spiral.
When we hear something that feels unfair or overly critical, we want to ignore it and blame the giver for being mean. Yet, we too often dwell on the comments and they become part of our inner dialog. thoughts circle around and around in our mind about how we screwed up, or we failed, or we don’t deserve this treatment. Our inner critic latches on and we can’t escape the negativity.
This cycle is horrible for two reasons. First, we are harming ourselves and our confidence by allowing the inner critic to keep picking at the feedback. We can get stuck in the feeling of failure and can’t move forward which impacts our performance and relationships. Second, by focusing on the unfairness of the comments we can miss useful insights into how people see us. While the delivery can suck, there is often a nugget of truth that will help us improve. Learning to find the useful information helps us move forward and shuts down the negative talk loop in our heads.
The challenge is separating the useful information from the words that were used and the way they were delivered. To do this we need to step back from our emotions and use our thinking brain to look at all the information. Sort through it all to find what is valid, useful data and dump the rest as scrap. This is like winnowing wheat where the chaff is separated from the wheat. Farmers remove the good wheat from husks so it can be used. By finding the useful information in the harsh feedback we can put it to use.
Here is a picture of how this process can look for feedback:
When you ask yourself is it valid you are looking for how it can help you. This may be a way to improve your communications, skills you can improve upon, knowledge you can learn, processes that are more efficient, protocols that matter to the organization, or a myriad of other improvement opportunities.
To help to step back from the emotions think about it as if you were examining the information with a good friend. You would look for what they can learn from it and you would help them decipher the facts from the fiction. Removing the emotion from it would be easy as you want to help them find peace with it. Do the same with yourself. In fact, if you find your inner critic is constantly nagging at you, stop and ask yourself would you say that to a friend? If not, why are you saying it to yourself? Stop it and find the useful.
Once you have found what is valuable let go of the rest. It no longer serves a purpose. Like winnowing wheat, the husks become scrap and are disposed of after the wheat is found. Breathe deep and release all the negative thoughts and feelings. Picture throwing it into the trash or blowing away in the wind. You are holding on to the good information. Create a plan to apply what you’ve learned so you are taking positive action on what you learned.
As you find the positive in the harsh feedback you can let it go and move forward. You stop the negative spiral of criticizing yourself, reliving the incident and are now moving up into a healthier, more productive place.