Category Archives: communication

Dealing with negative feedback

When you receive negative feedback, it can be hard to embrace it and process it skillfully so it benefits you. Some do amount to useless criticism that just tears you down, rather than help you identify blind spots and bolster your strengths.  But you can’t grow, be your best self, and reach your highest potential unless you’re willing to accept constructive feedback and recognize its worth.

Here are ways to deal effectively with negative feedback:

Realize opinions are not universal truths. Feedback reflects the giver’s opinion of you, your work and your performance. It has more to do with their expectations, likes and dislikes, perceptions of what should be, and how the world works.

When a person responds negatively to what you offer, it doesn’t mean others feel or think the same way. How you do things will please some people, but not everyone. Stay attuned especially to common themes that permeate different people’s feedback.

You can choose to make changes and tweaks based on other’s opinions that resonate with you, without considering them as universal truth. Or you can maintain your behavior, but switch to a more suitable environment (such as taking on a new role, becoming self-employed, or focusing on another target audience.) You get to choose when to incorporate advice and when to ignore it.

Receive the information without judgment.  Negative feedback can lead to feelings of anger, hurt, shame, and inadequacy. It’s tempting to stop listening or internally block out the information, take a defensive stance, or engage in counter-attacks to get rid of such feelings.

To truly benefit from feedback, however, you need to listen to it without judgement. Pause. Breathe. Stay curious. Ask questions. Refrain from agreeing or disagreeing right away. Even admit that the feedback is hard to hear. Simply allow your feelings to come and go, instead of fusing with them or giving in to the impulse to fix them.

Take time to process the information – even a day or more – before you give a response (if one is necessary or appropriate). Trusting your instincts is a good thing, but gut reactions or half-baked replies can get you in trouble as well. Giving an immediate rebuttal comes across as defensive, so it’s better to explain the challenges later to clear up misconceptions and address unfair criticism. Reflecting on the feedback allows you to create a workable plan of action.

Distinguish between feedback and criticism.  Consider the source. Some people really have your well being in mind and want to help you. Others just like to focus on the negatives without offering any tips or insights on how to improve. You don’t have to put up with or respond to insults, character assassinations, and name calling that are pure criticism and offer no constructive feedback. Stand up to bullies and ignore inflammatory, baseless comments that serve no real purpose.

Feedback is calmer, clearer and more specific than criticism. It encourages a dialogue on the benefits of change, rather than force change as the be-all and end-all.  It allows you to tackle key areas, rather than overgeneralize your mishaps and exaggerate your shortcomings.

Separate the content of the feedback from how it’s given. Providing an honest opinion is often uncomfortable. Not everyone is trained, skilled or experienced in giving feedback. And their approach to delivering feedback is usually the way they like to receive it, which might not match your preference. Assume people giving feedback have good intentions and thank them for making time to provide it.

Feedback that is carefully packaged and overly positive doesn’t do much besides feed your ego and tell you what you generally already know. Meanwhile, feedback that is delivered poorly can offer valuable truth and unique insights, even when it seems harsh and unduly negative. Be grateful for comments that help you break through to the next level, regardless of whether they feel good in the moment.

Don’t allow negative feedback to keep you stuck. The ability to receive and process feedback leads to greater self-awareness that boosts your performance – not self-consciousness that stops you in your tracks. Use feedback to empower you and steer you toward action, not cripple you and stifle your efforts.

Take negative feedback as an opportunity to build your resilience, increase your endurance, and enhance your self-reflection and understanding of others. The fact that someone gave you feedback means you’re making an impact rather than staying on the sidelines.

CONTACT        SUBSCRIBE  

# # #

Photo by: Emanuele Toscano

 

5 quick tips on responding

Responding appropriately to a core disagreement, unreasonable demand or hostile threat takes skill. The way you respond can have long-lasting effects on your relationships, reputation, and overall sense of peace. 

Here are 5 quick tips on responding:

1. Listen deeply.  Stay present — even when the fight, flight or freeze response has kicked in — to better assess the situation. Start with deep listening. When you’re constantly thinking about what you’re going to say while the speaker is talking, tuning out things you disagree with, and offering unsolicited advice, it’s hard to give an effective response. Watch your breath, allow mental chatter to come and go, and resist the urge to quell anxiety by resorting to an immediate, defensive response.

2. Seek clarification. Ask open-ended questions to build your understanding of the other person’s perspectives, fears, needs and wants.  Refrain from asking leading questions and initiating interrogations, which will escalate discord.

3. Aim for mutual benefiting, not winning.  Trying to convince the other person that you’re right is the goal of most arguments. But arguing your side or pointing out the flaws in the other’s position typically creates more distance. Strive for mutual understanding, instead of making ultimatums or engaging in manipulation. At the same time, it’s healthy to define, set and preserve your boundaries. If you truly cannot find common ground, it’s okay to walk away than fight a losing battle.

4. Let go of the outcome.  You do not control the receiver’s thoughts and feelings about what you say and how you say it, no matter the amount of deliberation that goes into it. What works with one person might not resonate with another. Stay true to your values in your response, but release your attachment to the desired result of your response.

5. Respond, instead of react. Pause, evaluate your options, and give a meaningful response, based on your needs, the other person’s needs, and the situation itself. Reacting according to your instincts, habits, and raw emotions is far less ideal than responding with a calm and clear mind. And sometimes the best response is not responding at all.

CONTACT        SUBSCRIBE  

# # #

Photo by: Tim Geers

The 5 Ds of Productivity: How to Use Them to Your Advantage

When it comes to managing overwhelm and juggling multiple priorities, the 5 Ds of productivity come in handy.

The 5 Ds are: Do, Diminish, Delegate, Defer, and Delete. Your mental obstacles and bad habits can get in the way of implementing them.

Here are tips to overcome the psychological barriers and self-sabotaging behaviors that can stop you from using the 5 Ds effectively:

 

1. Do

Procrastination often leads to long to-do lists without the necessary follow through. Putting things off can create more overwhelm, reduce the quality of your work, cause you to miss deadlines, and damage your reputation.

In Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen advises that if an action will take less than two minutes, do it as soon as it’s defined. You also first need to prioritize what’s most important to you, then break down the task or project into small, manageable steps that you can readily execute. Carve out non-negotiable time to complete each step.

In certain situations though, procrastination can work. Sometimes you do need to reflect on things, clarify your intentions, and determine your ultimate goal before you take action. Some problems take care of themselves if you stay out of them. Some circumstances improve over time and with little or no effort on your part.

Choose the right things to do. Doing the wrong things might offer temporary relief, but no long-term value. If a colleague fires off an angry email to you, the temptation might be to craft and send an immediate, defensive response. But it’s best to wait until you’re in a calmer state of mind and address it on your own terms. Or you could just ignore it.

Do the things that really matter. Embrace procrastination when it works.

2. Diminish

Being a perfectionist can cause you put in too much effort, energy and time into minor things that have minimal value. Perfectionists tend to be perpetually anxious, generally dissatisfied, and overly goal-oriented.

When a task or project must be done by you personally, focus on the most critical aspects rather than the trivial pieces. Perhaps a timely first draft is more important than a flawless but delayed final version. Strive to deliver a good, workable product instead of perfecting the parts that don’t matter. If the client wants a simple solution that takes care of the basics, there’s no need to deliver one loaded with bells and whistles.

Pinpoint what you can’t control — such as how critics feel about you — and let it go. Focus on what you can do to influence the situation, improve your circumstances, and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.

At times, being a perfectionist can present advantages. Maintaining impeccable standards and high expectations, and aiming for them, can work to your benefit. Catching damaging errors and paying attention to critical details are typical strengths among perfectionists, including many lawyers, surgeons and accountants.

Diminish tasks that aren’t valuable to others or meaningful to you. Allow your perfectionist tendencies to help you hone your craft, without forcing you to lose sight of the big picture.

3. Delegate

Delegating tasks or projects to another person is hard when you’re a control freak or a micro-manager. You want things done a certain way and you’re hardly ever satisfied with the results of others’ efforts.

But in many instances, you need to delegate and hand over control to others — especially when the task doesn’t have to be done by you and can be done better by others. L. David Marquet, author of Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders, describes levels of leadership in which you move from telling people what to do to not telling people what to do. The levels he sets forth are as follows:

Level 1: “Tell me what to do..:”

Level 2: “I think…”

Level 3: “I recommend…”

Level 4: “Request permission to…”

Level 5: “I intend to…”

Level 6: “I just did…”

Level 7: “I’ve been doing…”

When you encourage others to take responsibility, you free up your time to focus on strategic matters and critical tasks that are better handled by you. You also reduce overwhelm due to taking on too much, as well as boost your productivity in areas that truly count.

Normally, however, you cannot delegate until you have defined what tasks need to be accomplished or what problem has to be solved. Setting healthy boundaries and reasonable limits also doesn’t mean you’re a control freak or a micro-manager.

Delegate responsibility to others who can do the thing just as well, if not better than you. Channel your desire for control into communicating assertively when lines are crossed.

4. Defer

Overachievers have trouble deferring goals and dreams for later, even when they are at peak capacity. They load up on stimulants, work around the clock, and attempt to multitask to get the maximum amount of things done in limited time. But going into overdrive – with no breaks for refueling and recharging – adds wear and tear. Running out of steam compromises your ability to accomplish your highest priorities.

If something is important to you, and you just don’t have time for it now, deferring it is a viable option. Set a reminder for when you will start to take action on the deferred item. Keep a journal for all your creative ideas that require fleshing out. Create a bucket list or someday list for things that call for more planning, but can wait.

Realize that setting goals and having the desire to achieve them can move you out of temporary dips. Knowing your ideal direction allows for strategic thinking, deliberate choosing and achieving your top priorities.  But you can still lead a purposeful life, even if you experience disappointment from not achieving a goal, big or small.

Defer pursuits that you still consider worthwhile, but must give way to more important matters and true emergencies. Use your ambition to get you to the next level without running yourself to the ground.

5. Delete

When you’re a people-pleaser, it can be very uncomfortable to say no. You say yes to projects that are boring or stressful to you because you want to help someone out of a jam. You agree to commitments that aren’t in line with your priorities because you want to be of service.

Your time, energy and attention span are limited. Say no to requests gently, directly and compassionately, while nixing the guilt.  Consider moving goals off your someday list if they have lost their luster and reflect an old version of you.

The habit of striving to make others happy, to the detriment of your well being, can be transformed into a more positive quality. There is a big difference between a kind person who genuinely cares about others and a people-pleaser who depends on others for validation.

Decline unsuitable job offers, re-negotiate commitments that don’t match your values, and delete icky tasks you don’t have to do. If you want to serve your community well, hit the delete button to clear out unnecessary clutter and create desired space for what really moves you. Give yourself room to breathe.

CONTACT        SUBSCRIBE  

# # #

Photo by: Phil Dolby