There's no shortage of guidance about how to respond to negative feedback. Whether the criticism comes as a shock or is entirely expected, the same advice is consistently touted: Listen carefully, don't get defensive, and act on the feedback to improve your performance.
This is good advice. The problem is, it's aimed at Thinkers. When a Thinker is taken to task, their natural response is to weigh up the evidence and look for the logic behind the allegations. They might lash out initially, but if there's truth in the feedback, a Thinker will be inclined to buck up and act on the advice.
Feelers are more likely to feel the impact of negative feedback on an emotional level - like a punch in the gut. Unprepared, the Feeler may view the criticism as a personal attack and come away with the sense that their manager dislikes or disrespects them. This can rock their sense of identity and security, especially if they are being criticized by someone they regard as a friend.
So how can Feelers handle negative feedback with poise and strength? Here are some tips.
1. Separate the personal from the professional
Feelers tend to take criticism more personally than they should, and that's really where they go wrong. A recent study by Leadership IQ found that 26% of new hires fail because they can't accept negative feedback, and a further 23% fail because they're unable to understand and control the personal emotions that inevitably flare up in a stressful workplace environment. Bottom line is, if you view criticism as a condemnation of your character, you're headed for trouble.
For Feelers in particular, it is crucial to separate the negative feedback from your sense of self. For example, if your manager tells you that the report you wrote was not up to scratch, then the important thing is to see the feedback not as a criticism of you personally, but of the report itself. Your boss is giving you feedback about something you did, not about who you are as a person.
If you can learn to view the critique as just another data point, it becomes less personal. You might be able to react more calmly because a badly written report is never the end of the world.
2. Get to the truth using open-ended questions
In the heat of the moment, it can be difficult to separate constructive criticism from feedback that does not possess a single grain of truth. Your manager might have your best interests at heart, but equally, she might be feeling pressurized and angry, and she might be taking those frustrations out on you. Not getting to the truth in this situation sets you both up for a dysfunctional relationship. Your boss will continue to have unrealistic expectations about your performance, and you will feel increasingly resentful and undervalued.
Asking open-ended questions is the best way for the both of you to learn what went wrong and how the problem can be avoided next time. Asking questions like, "Where do you think I went wrong on this task?" or "Could you give me an example of how you'd like me to handle this in the future?" gives you both the opportunity to assess the situation objectively. Hopefully, you can both build a clearer picture of what needs to happen next and end the conversation on good terms.
3. Don't over-apologize
Feelers value harmony, and their instinct is to do anything for a quiet life. Faced with negative feedback, you may be tempted to apologize repeatedly or bend over backwards to win the feedback-giver's approval. Grovelling like that? It's not the stuff that promotions are made of.
If the feedback is based on a specific behavior, apologize once - and that's it. You don't have to swear on the life of your firstborn that you'll never make the same mistake again. Your manager simply needs to know that you have listened to the feedback and that you will take the necessary corrective action. Don't make them sit through 30 minutes of rambling contrition - it undermines your professionalism.
4. Reframe the negative as a positive
It's normal to feel bad after receiving less-than-glowing feedback. So don't beat yourself up if you need to wallow for a while. But equally, try not to dwell on the negatives for too long. At some point, you have to figure out how to use the feedback to propel you to the next level of success.
Reframing means stepping back from the problem and looking at it through a different lens. If you can find a way to express the feedback as helpful, not hurtful, then you are more likely to view it as an opportunity and not a threat. Here's an example: My boss thinks I'm too talkative because I connect with my co-workers all the time. What I actually am, is a great communicator. If I can just learn to schedule my conversations in a productive way, I can really help the team to function harmoniously and foster positive relationships that will benefit the organization.
According to one recent study, people who reframe a negative behavior end up performing significantly better on the tasks where they might otherwise fall short on. For Feelers who get caught up in "I'm not good enough" thoughts, reframing is a valuable skill to master as it helps you accept your full potential and reduces the chances of negative feedback getting in the way of your goals.