Category Archives: leadership

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.

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Photo by: Emanuele Toscano

 

5 quick tips on surrendering

Surrendering is typically viewed as a sign of defeat, a mark of failure, and a showing of weakness. But one must be willing to surrender – again and again – to stop unnecessary suffering, move forward, and lead an awakened life.

Here are 5 quick tips on surrendering: 

1.  Redefine surrender.  In war, the term surrender means giving up power to another upon demand or defeat. It’s no wonder it has negative connotations in everyday challenges and disputes. But what if surrender means gracefully facing the inevitable, avoiding undue harm, repairing damage, finding closure, and dropping a cause that is no longer worth struggling for?  Consider the many ways surrender can be an empowering choice before you dismiss it as an option for losers only.

2. Choose your battles wisely.  Stand up for yourself. Resist attacks. Stay true to your values. Don’t ever be a doormat. Just be prepared for backlash when you start meddling in someone else’s business, instead of minding your own. You can’t force others to change so they don’t bug you anymore. Surrender involves quitting an action that’s not working, getting comfortable with discomfort, letting go bit by bit of the things you don’t control, and staying open to a myriad of possibilities.

3. Notice when you are in resistance mode. Pay attention to how resistance manifests in your body.  Clenched fists? Jaw tension? Stiff neck?  Shallow breathing? Taking stock of what resistance feels like to you will help you determine when and where surrender is needed.

4. Release the toxic thoughts that arise when you surrender.  If you were taught to fight for what you want and to make things happen, it’s natural to think less of yourself when you allow events to unfold naturally. While deliberate effort is healthy, the need to control the results is rooted in fear. Surrendering, in fact, requires strong acts of courage. Once you acknowledge this as a basic truth, your thoughts about it will start to shift.

5. Realize that surrender can be a good thing, even when it doesn’t feel good.Despite what self-help gurus or spiritual circles might say, surrendering doesn’t always feel freeing, peaceful and blissful. It can often feel painful, terrifying and maddening. But after the sadness, rage or disappointment from relinquishment settles, you can make use of the new space, time and energy to engage in more fruitful activity. Trust the process. Trust your decision to move through it.

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Photo by: Rodger Evans

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.

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Photo by: Tim Geers