Pow! When Feedback Hits You Right in the Kisser

Originally published via LinkedIn Aug 22, 2017

Unless you’re one of those people who magically evaporate into the air as soon as they enter the office, you’re likely to receive feedback from others both positive and negative–because you actually do stuff and ain’t everyone gonna be happy about it. But as Bill Gates says:

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”

Still, it’s rough hearing negative feedback. My typical reaction is to process the following emotions in this order in about hour and half: shock, outrage, hurt, embarrassment, acceptance, time to #carryon. Oddly, my reaction to positive feedback is similar. Minus the outrage and hurt, of course.

Overwhelmingly, I have received positive feedback in my career. Either I’m really that awesome or lots of people are lying to me. But, whatever, I’ll take it!

Recently, though, I got some feedback that totally stung. Like a mother.

I didn’t reach the acceptance and time-to-carry-on stage for a good two days and after a few Tito’s and sodas (with a lime).

Here’s the thing about people’s perception of you. It’s not always accurate, but it’s the truth for them.

In this case, the less-than-flattering feedback came from someone I thought I had an excellent working relationship with. I’m gonna be honest with ya’ll, I believed this manager thought I was the freaking cat’s meow. When I flipped open that review sheet with a smile on my face, I just about spit my diet coke across the room. Like that feeling when someone you think you’re totally cool with throws you under the bus on a call or you try on swim suits at the beginning of the summer in a dressing room with bad lighting after spending all winter eating lettuce. Totally deflating and totally wtf.

I got some advice from people smarter than me on how to handle negative feedback and it helped me tremendously so I wanted to share it for anyone who may need it.

It’s one person’s perception. Now if you have 27 people giving you the same negative feedback, it might be a sign you need to change your tone, but if you get more good than bad, take this person’s comments with a grain of salt.

Talk to them. I was advised to reach out to this person, thank them for their honesty, and talk about how I can improve their perception. I’m so glad I did this! I’m also glad I did this after several days and some Tito’s. I wrote down everything I wanted to say and tried to be as calm as possible. That conversation brought to light issues that could help correct this perception and, most importantly, it gave me some closure and understanding.

Educate that person on who you are. Maybe their perception of you is weak because they have been absent in the day-to-day running of your business. Maybe you need to do a better job of ‘reporting the news’ to them. Maybe their view of you is myopic and you need to open that up. In your next 1:1, don’t vent, don’t complain, don’t say you’re busy, just talk up all the amazing stuff you’ve accomplished in the last week with a big fat smile on your face!

Talk their talk. This is a larger piece of advice that should be followed even around people who love you. Say phrases they say, talk about outcomes, metrics, goals, quota, budget, whatever is important to them and understand how your role helps solve their problems and drive business.

Learn from it. Here’s the thing, this feedback wasn’t entirely inaccurate. Like everyone else in the world, I have areas of development. Duh. This person called those out. I immediately set out to improve my knowledge and presentation on those areas. This will only serve to make me even better than I already am. You will never know enough, you will never stop learning and you shouldn’t. This was a good reminder of that.

Let it go. Now that annoying Frozen song is in your head and I’m sorry about that. Eeek! But once you talk about it and take steps to improve, it’s time to move on. Don’t dwell over it or let it eat away at you. Roll with the punches, go out to lunch with someone who thinks you’re a badass and carry on.

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