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From -ve to +ve in the flick of a feedback-switch

Posted 9 months ago by Rob Markwell
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No matter how successful we are, or what outward perception of confidence we portray, there are times when confidence can be fragile, especially at work.

Spending more time in the office than we do at home, more interaction with our colleagues than with our loved ones, it’s understandable that we often take negative feedback more personally than we should. Yet it’s crucial for our professional development to learn how to turn apparent negatives into positivity; to use the critique to fuel our career potential.

The starting point for this is to learn to reframe our reactions and give criticism a constructive spin. By allowing ourselves to look at negative feedback from a different viewpoint, we can extend our capacity beyond our normal boundaries and use it as an opportunity to adapt by acting on what has been recommended (or inferred).

Simply changing our outlook could be the key to getting a handle on the feedback: one simple starting point is to consider removing the ‘negative’ label altogether and rebranding it ‘feedback’ only, as by labelling it either ‘negative’ or ‘positive’ (bad or good), we are limiting the value of the experience. Hindsight often presents us with the opportunity to reflect on instances that may have initially appeared negative, but that in the long run have actually proven to be a positive turning point or catalyst for change.

It’s not always easy, especially in the heat of the moment, however, stepping back and widening our perspective to see the bigger picture can benefit much more than just our working life. When receiving this ‘feedback’, we can view it as a way to improve our wider skillset. By allowing it to be an opportunity we create the potential to turn the criticism in to action and by making the changes, we open up the potential to improve career prospects or our general quality of life.

Of course, not all negative feedback is accurate and can sometimes be influenced by the insecurities of others, so it is important to look at the filters through which our behaviours or actions have been observed. So we should always start with questioning whether the feedback is fact or fiction. The danger here is that our natural tendency is to believe we are on the right and the person delivering the feedback is wrong, or not understanding it from our perspective. It is therefore paramount that we’re brutally honest with ourselves and look at both sides. If in doubt, ask a trusted friend or colleague’s opinion. If there is a grain of truth present, we should consider changing our behaviour, or handling things differently the next time a situation arises.

While we’re being honest with ourselves, let’s acknowledge that criticism or ‘feedback’ of any description can evoke a desire to bite back, which is ultimately self-destructive. This comes back to widening our perspective on the feedback and then using it as a vehicle for positive change and action. Realising this helps us to not become defensive when we’re given feedback and by staying calm and rational, we can create dialogue/action that will result in a clear strategy to change things going forward.

It’s equally as important to ensure we don’t fall into the trap of hearing only negative feedback: constructive criticism is often delivered alongside positive feedback and it is important that we hear and genuinely acknowledge both. Being energised by good feedback is equally as important as working on changing behaviour to constructively address negative feedback.

When we are able to regard a negative experience as an opportunity for self-improvement and when we are prepared to acknowledge and integrate our flaws, we naturally become more considered and compassionate and it’s often surprising what opportunities this opens up.