Does receiving negative feedback or constructive criticism make you want to crawl up into a ball and cry? …Same.
If receiving negative feedback usually eats away at you whilst you’re trying to sleep each night (along with that memory of when you fell flat on your face in front of the entire school in year 8), this advice is for you.
No one likes to get negative feedback. When used incorrectly, negative feedback has the power to make us feel, well, really shit. But when used correctly, it can actually benefit us all – whether you’re a student, graduate or navigating the world of work.
In fact, in a survey of 100 employees, 92% said that negative feedback, when vocalised properly, is super effective at improving performance. With that, let’s get into it.
Shift your perspective
The key to dealing with negative feedback is to actually shift your perspective and understand that receiving feedback doesn’t mean you’re an awful human. All it means is that there’s some room for improvement.
What is the trick to shifting your mindset and turning the negative into a not-so-negative? Actually asking for the feedback yourself and being the one to initiate this conversation. Not only does this soften the blow of any negative feedback and allows you to control the conversation, but it also gives off super confident vibes. There’s nothing more confident than acknowledging you’re not perfect and you’re open to improving.
So the next time you fuck up in your uni assignment, or completely tank a job interview, don’t push it to the side and try to blank it out. Make sure you ask for feedback. Ask your tutors, coursemates, interviewer, mentors, etc and tell them to be brutally honest. If you’re going to put yourself out there to be shit on, it might as well be the most useful it can possibly be.
Once you’ve changed your perspective on receiving negative feedback, here are a couple of other ways of dealing with it. We promise, they won’t make you cry.
Make a note of what the person is telling you and summarise these notes down into key points. Not only is this way less overwhelming (because nobody wants a whole paragraph about how they could be doing better) but it will help you to get super specific. You could even categorise the feedback depending on how useful this is. Let us give you a real-life example.
You’ve been asked to prepare a presentation for a seminar or a job interview and naturally, you’re shitting it. But somehow, you manage to make it through without throwing up (it’s a miracle!!) only to realise you’ve had half the audience falling asleep.
You’ve been given some negative feedback and instead of having a fully-fledged breakdown, you categorise their advice into ‘presentation content feedback’, ‘delivery of presentation feedback’ and ‘presentation design and layout feedback’. Now you have 3 main areas of improvement to focus on.
Taking notes is also helpful for personal growth and self-reflection. Next time you’re feeling down on yourself or doubting your abilities, whip out the list and reflect on all you’ve improved. It will also be super useful for work reviews too so you can show your boss you haven’t been slacking!
Ask the Tougher Questions
Get clarification. If you’re not sure exactly what they mean or you want to know how exactly they would suggest you could improve, ask! Here are some ways you could go about this.
What to ask:
- “Thank you for helping me identify the areas I need to improve; how would I go about improving this?”
- “If you have a spare moment, could you go over this with me so I don’t make this same mistake again?”
- “I appreciate your feedback; can we schedule a separate time to go over my amendments and work together on better solutions for the future?”
If the person you’re talking to has negative feedback to give, they need to be able to tell you what you can actively do to get better. Remember constructive criticism shouldn’t be a personal attack. It will feel less like this when you take the conversation into your own hands.
A Plan of Action
Now you know where you’ve gone wrong and what you can do to improve, deal with this by making a plan of action. If you have another assignment, presentation or job interview coming up, have this feedback at the forefront of your mind when you’re preparing. Not every piece of feedback will be super relevant, so it’s up to you to decide what to implement.
Once you’ve done this, move on. Mentally you don’t want to get hung up on this negative feedback and let it keep you awake at night. Give yourself some credit. You’re not a robot and it wouldn’t be fair to expect zero mistakes – especially when you’re a student starting out or a grad figuring out the world of work.
Keep it up, you’re doing your best and we’re proud of you.
And if you want to make sure you’re in the best position to not receive negative feedback, check out our blogs on mastering your CV, cover letters and interviews.