How to Give And Receive Negative Feedback 

All types of feedback are undoubtedly useful for personal and professional growth, with negative feedback being even more productive – if done constructively. Most people understand this; nevertheless, the majority are more than likely to react painfully to it. That’s because it hits our self-esteem. Moreover, those who criticise often do not express their thoughts tactfully or even correctly. And so, instead of listening to what has been said to then make important conclusions, you are vehemently defending yourself.

So, let’s discuss the art of criticising constructively and responding to this kind of feedback with dignity.

If you receive negative feedback…

Blood is rushing to the face, your heart seems to be popping out of the chest, breath is intercepted. Does that sound familiar? Exhale and stop for a moment to take some time and deal with those surging feelings. First of all, find out what exactly you are accused of. For example, after hearing a statement like “You are an irresponsible employee!”, one may ask, “What are the things (facts) that make you think of me as such an employee?”

After finding out the details of why the critical feedback has been given to you, the next step is to try to figure out whether the negative feedback is something you can agree with (even reluctantly). Try to understand why the person is dissatisfied with what you have done.

After you have got the details and you are on the way to digest it, set the borders between your core qualities and what you are criticised for. Do not think of yourself as a permanent loser because of the mistake. Also, while being polite, defend yourself if there are any misperceptions and correct them. 

If the negative feedback is fully wrong, try to calmly provide the arguments to persuade the person towards your point of view. If all that’s said within the critical feedback is correct, then say something like “I will consider what you have said and learn my lessons from it, thank you.” The ability to admit one’s mistakes is much more appreciated than the willingness to argue to prove them wrong. 

The final step is to find a mutually acceptable solution and agree on the action points.

if you need to give negative feedback…

What if you need to criticise your manager or colleagues? This can be an issue even for experienced managers. Many books like ‘Difficult Conversations. How to Discuss What Matters Most‘ by Douglas Stone, and online courses like ‘Giving Helpful Feedback‘ on Coursera, and other such tutorials remain popular over the decades.

When discussing with your boss or a colleague an idea that seems wrong to you, start with what you agree with. Then, move on to what is bothering you: offer your vision of what is happening, point out possible negative consequences of the decision(s) being made, and try to back up the arguments with numbers and facts.

When you need to tell about some mistakes your colleague made, psychologists advise to use the ‘sandwich’ technique: the beginning and the end of the message should be positive, and negative points should be included in the middle of your feedback.

So, here are the points to consider when you need to provide negative feedback:

  1. Start the conversation with the pros, highlight valuable achievements or qualities of a person. This can sound like “Thank you for the promptly provided data…”
  2. Go to the cons, and mistakes that have been made. Show the impact of the error on the overall work process in the company. Try to put it together like “There are errors in the report, so I cannot send it over to the manager. But if we do not provide this data, the client will choose competitors over us.”
  3. The main point is to suggest your solution to the problem or come up with a plan for further actions. Without such a solution, your criticism might just be meaningless harm to the person’s self-esteem.
  4. End the conversation with another positive point. The good thing here to do is to support the person by expressing the confidence that she/he will cope with the task.

5 golden feedback rules…

  1. Be impersonal. Do not refer to a particular person; this will soften your words.
  2. Avoid generalisations like “You always / you never …”. Talk only about the facts like “You were three times late this week.”
  3. Say it immediately afterward. It is necessary to give your negative feedback soon after the person has made a mistake. If you put off the conversation for later, it can be perceived as a generally negative attitude towards the person.
  4. Be tactful. Say what you need to say in person or in a one-to-one email or message. Also, you should never tell this via a third party. The best way to provide negative feedback is to do it in a private conversation so not to embarrass the person being criticised even more.
  5. Be calm and friendly. Do not start this difficult conversation until you calm down. People are very sensitive and pay attention to the tone of what is being said first, and only then to the content.

to wrap up…

Feedback is usually a complicated process for both the giver and the receiver. However, it’s an inevitable part of our life and we need to be aware of how to give and perceive it correctly. Remember that negative feedback should be given for improving something or someone and this needs to be done wisely. So, just keep in mind the tips revealed in this article and practice the art of giving and receiving feedback tactfully.

Author: Stacey Miller – Data Analyst and Content Creator, Self-Starters

Photo credit: Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to get the latest news, events, podcasts and more!