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No one likes to receive negative feedback. We’d all like to skate through life and have people tell us, “That was perfect! No changes necessary.” Or, “I love your ideas. Let’s adopt every single one of them.” Or, “Your report was impeccable. Don’t change a thing.”

If only.

The truth is, you will receive negative feedback at times, whether in a meeting, during an annual review, or from co-workers (in a more casual sense). Negative feedback can sting. You might feel defensive, you may dread the work that the feedback might create, or you might even feel some animosity toward the person who delivered the critique.

Those feelings are normal, and you can work through them. Let’s talk about 3 ways to deal with negative feedback.

1. Delay Your Reaction

When you or your work is criticized, your kneejerk reaction may be to bite back. You might say something snappy, blow off the criticism, or even attack the speaker. None of these are productive responses, and they may end up damaging relationships or your reputation.

Instead, take time to internalize the criticism. You might ask a clarifying question or two (or gently correct something the speaker misstated), but do your best to not be defensive. Even if you don’t entirely agree with the feedback, there may be a kernel of truth in it. Let your anger or disappointment subside before you respond.

2. Examine the Heart of the Feedback

How often do you latch onto a criticism, even when someone has given you several compliments? When dealing with negative feedback, sit down and think about everything that was said. Was the negative component the most important part of the feedback? Or simply the part that stuck with you?

Even if the negative portion of the feedback wasn’t the central focus, it’s worth addressing it. Now that you’re in a more neutral state (hopefully!), consider ways to course correct. Will this be a major undertaking? Will it involve other people or various resources? Start planning, but don’t get too far until you do Step 3…

3. Circle Back to the Critiquer

After you’ve had some time to digest the negative feedback, it’s a good idea to reach out to the person who delivered it. It could be that they didn’t state their case clearly, were confused, or overstated the problem. Or maybe they meant every word of their critique.

Whatever the case, I encourage you to contact this person and address their criticism head-on. You might start the conversation like this:

“I’ve been giving what you said about X a lot of thought, and I want to ask you some clarifying questions before diving in to make corrections. Can we chat?”

If they agree to talk, keep things civil and professional. You should have a genuine desire to make things better and improve! The goal of this conversation is to capture more information AND demonstrate to the other person that you hear them, respect their opinion, and are willing to put in the leg work to make things right.

No one loves negative feedback, but we can all learn from it. At times, this feedback may be exaggerated or just plain wrong, but don’t dismiss it outright. We can learn from others’ thoughts and perspectives, and it’s helpful to keep a humble, always-improving attitude. Besides, the more you deal with criticism, the easier it will be to take it.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE.

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Woman thinking, looking up
Photo by Tachina Lee on Unsplash

It pays to be a problem-solver. Rather than either A) Sitting around and waiting for things to resolve themselves or B) Counting on others to solve your problems, it’s better to take a proactive approach. For one, the problems you’re facing may not resolve on their own. Or, they may not resolve themselves in the way you want. If you take “approach B” and let others solve problems for you, you lose crucial opportunities to learn and grow. Not to mention, your fate (or the fate of a project) will always be in others’ hands, beyond your control.

It’s much more rewarding to be proactive and attempt to solve problems yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to go about problem-solving on your own. The most adept problem-solvers use whatever resources (human or otherwise) that are at their disposal.

Work on becoming a problem-solver in your workplace! Focus on building the following six traits:

1. Be Courageous

Some risk may be involved in finding solutions to sub-optimal situations. You might have to speak up, contact your superiors, or tap into uncharted territory. Be courageous, knowing that you’ll be learning valuable skills, no matter the outcome.

2. Adapt

Not every solution is going to keep you squarely within your comfort zone. Be prepared to be flexible.

3. Innovate

Think outside the box! The best solutions may be paths you have not yet explored in your workplace. Look to other industries or unlikely sources for problem-solving inspiration

4. Be Resourceful

Don’t be afraid to seek help. Online research, your HR department, co-workers, or your professional connections could be sources of advice or inspiration for you.

5. Build Unity

If a problem is affecting an entire department or group of people, it pays to rally the troops and get everyone working toward solving your mutual issue. You know what they say about several heads being better than one!

6. Be Vocal

Silence is the worst way to deal with a sticky issue. Refusing to address a problem with open communication will only suppress it or force people to talk about it in whispers.

Embrace your courageous, vocal, innovative, and adaptive sides! Rally the troops and use whatever resources are available to you. Be a proactive problem-solver, and you’ll gain a better handle on your future. Not only that, you’ll also develop valuable skills along the way and likely gain recognition from your superiors as someone who is unafraid to face problems head-on.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Seagull screeching the words "Clarity in Communication"

Communication is the lifeblood of all organizations. So much so, there are whole industries built around identifying the divides between people and bridging them to create effective teams. If your co-workers do not understand the goal or details you are trying to convey, it is likely there will be confusion strewn throughout the entire process of your project. Clear communication is not all about group dynamics and personalities. There is a rhyme and reason to the process that can be reflected and improved upon on an individual basis too. If you’re interested in improving your own communicative process, consider the tips below:

1. Pay Attention To Language Preferences

Everybody has language preferences. If you spend enough time in an organization, you’ll likely develop a sense of the different backgrounds people come from, and the type of language that engages them the most easily. Pay attention in meetings and in written correspondence to the way ideas are phrased and the presented. Then, apply your findings to your messaging.

2. Body Language and Volume

Humans are emotional creatures, and we are wired to pick up signals not just from speech, but from the way in which our speech is presented. For example, folded arms can undermine your position when trying to encourage participation and collaboration. Getting loud or using animated facial expressions can be read as excited as easily as intimidating. If people shy away or don’t physically present in a way to you that seems engaged, consider how you might adjust your body language to appear more approachable.

3. Expand Vocabulary

Sometimes clear communication is as simple as developing a greater precision in language. Crack open a thesaurus and study the contextual differences and appropriate use of terms you frequently encounter or use in your organization. There’s nuance in English between similar concepts, so any additional ability to distinguish your meaning can be valuable.

4. Ask Questions

If you are confused by someone’s meaning, do not be afraid to simply ask for clarification. Sometimes it can be intimidating to question a superior or pester a group message with a stream of individual questions. However, your confusion may be shared by the group at large, so being proactive and asking for more information can be beneficial for all. If the questions don’t clarify to your satisfaction, consider asking other colleagues or involving a mediator to get everyone on the same page.

There are a lot of factors that make up clear and effective communication. By using concise language and being more aware of others’ manners and modes, you can implement the changes that will lead to more effective team dynamics. Where there is rapport and understanding, there is success!

Margaret Smith is a career coach, author, Insights® Discovery (and Deeper Discovery) Licensed Practitioner, and founder of UXL. She hosts WORKSHOPS for people who need career or personal guidance.
NOW LIVE: Check out Margaret’s NEW online Leadership Course.

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