Handling negative feedback

There’s no shortage of advice about how to react to negative feedback. Whether the critic is a boss or a co-worker, the same familiar guidance is consistently presented: Listen carefully, don’t get defensive, ask for time.

There’s nothing wrong with these three suggestions, of course. But at the moment when an unhappy colleague is telling you loudly that the project plan you created left out some obvious key components, or your boss is taking you to task for the stumbles you made in running an important meeting, it’s hard to recall these valid pointers, move them to the front of your mind, and actually act on them.

Here’s the point: unless you have spent a little time in advance thinking about what you’ll do the next time that—fairly or foully—someone delivers some unexpected criticism, all the good advice you’ve heard about how to react won’t come immediately to mind. Unprepared, you’re likely to be so caught up in the immediacy of the moment that you won’t remember these three simple, familiar prescriptions that allow us to keep control and to master (or at least, defuse) the situation. So they bear repeating, and thinking through now—so you’ll be prepared in the heat of the moment.

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