How to deal with negative feedback and criticism

by Griselda K Togobo | Follow me on Twitter HERE

Stressed BusinesswomanIn the course of growing your business you’ll be dealing with lots of negative feedback from staff, colleagues, clients, community members, friends, family and even mere observers.

Being at the receiving end of any kind of negative feedback is painful and can have a devastating effect on your confidence and self-esteem.

I’ve lots of stories of clients battling with negative feedback – am not immune to this challenge either. I remember an incident where a very successful lady whose business is in the multiple six figures,  first called me in because a staff member had decided to tell her a piece of her mind on her way out of her job. This staff member got very personal and did some real damage to my client’s confidence.

Another client was given very vicious feedback by a business partner she had gone into a deal with. It later transpired that he was simply trying to cut her out of the deal and the money! He claimed the client didn’t like her work and had complained to him so he had to pay her less than initially agreed. Fast forward a few months later and my clients work has been used in all their marketing collateral. No whiff of any disappointment with her work. Someone was just trying to be smart. Unfortunately, anybody looking to grow their business and live their life on their own terms will face varying degrees of criticisms at different stages of the journey. It affects both new and seasoned business owners.

Feedback (good and bad) is very important for improving yourself and your business however you need to learn to with it and handle it properly if you are to utilise it productively.

Dr Steve Peters in his book The Chimp Paradox: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness talks about two brains, the chimp brain and the human brain. The chimp brain, the emotional brain interprets information with feelings and impressions whilst the human brain, the logical brain works with facts and will search for the truth. The chimp brain makes a lot of assumptions and fills in information gaps with guesses, paranoia and defensive thoughts. Unfortunately this is the brain that gives and receives negative feedback. We have to be careful and avoid the chimp taking over every feedback and turning it into a painful emotional roller coaster ride. Most non-objective feedback and criticism comes from the chimp brain.

Big corporates spend a lot of money teaching their managers to give effective feedback because they understand that feedback given the wrong way is a car crash waiting to happen! It can do real damage to relationships and peoples self esteem and ultimately affect productivity.

So, how do you deal with negative feedback? How do you bounce back from being criticised? How do you respond and react in the face of criticism?

Below are 10 tips to bear in mind when coping with negative feedback:

  1. You are told not to let praise get to your head. It’s even more important that you keep the negative feedback and criticism as far away from your head as possible.  Most of us replay bad events in our minds like a movie, reliving the pain. Don’t torture yourself by going over the experience over and over again.  This applies to either oral or written negative feedback. Most celebrities don’t Google themselves for this same reason.
  2. Our Chimp brain has what is called a “self serving bias”, its quick to absolve its self of blame and rationalises everything to make itself look good. That goes both ways whether its you giving the feedback or receiving it so don’t let it get to you, nobody gives feedback that will reflect badly on themselves.
  3. Feedback whether positive or negative tells you a lot about the person giving you feedback. In fact it tells you more about them, their beliefs, values and expectation than it does about you. As much as you want it to be ALL about you, its not. Keep this in mind and take the insights you can glean from the feedback or criticism and put it to good use.
  4. Feedback is an opportunity to do some self-reflective and personal development work. Do the work and learn the lessons to be learnt so you can cope better next time. The higher you go, the more critical your observers will be.
  5. We go through life telling ourselves stories to help us make sense of everyday life. What stories are you telling yourself about the feedback? The feedback we receive will trigger some of the negative stories. Be objective and try to find the positive stories in the experience as well.  There are two sides to every story its just a matter of perception.
  6. Be careful what you post on social media. Even with the best intentions, people still think everything you write is about them, especially when you are in regular communication with them. People have accused me of writing about them – even articles I wrote years before I met them. I love to point this out to them :). You’ll be amazed by the number of people who have gone through and are still going through exactly the same things you are going through now. Don’t make everything you read online about you.
  7. I read some where that you need to be careful who you open up to. Few people really care, there rest are just curious. Don’t turn yourself into a talking point for other peoples coffee dates.
  8. Know that any situation gets amplified when there is money involved. Money brings out the best and worst in people.  The bigger the amount, the more vicious and critical the feedback and criticism can be. Do your best to be fair.
  9. The person giving negative feedback is not a bad person. They are just projecting their own experiences.
  10. If you keep a journal (something I started doing this year), this is a good time to go and let in all out in a safe space. Remember not everybody cares as Les Brown says, they are glad its your problem and not theirs.

I’m not afraid to confess that I’ve not evolved above being affected by negativity but I’m definitely getting better are containing it. At the end of the day, you cannot let the fear of being criticised, hold you back from pursuing the life and business you truly want. It’s a price to pay and the better you get at handling and managing the negativity, the better for all involved.

Remember that your biggest challenge in business is not the critics and the negative feedback. Its what goes on inside your head!

I’d love to hear from you? How have you dealt with negative feedback and critics in your journey to grow your business?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

bilal March 18, 2014 at 9:36 pm

nice site really nice i like it

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