Is it as hard to hear negative feedback as it is to deliver it?

Let’s face it – negative feedback is hard. Hard to give and hard to receive.

So here are a few ways of looking at negative feedback that may change your viewpoint.

Firstly, it’s just feedback – if you don’t agree, you can just leave it there on the table. No one can force you to accept it. The problems we face with our receptiveness towards feedback is because we think that accepting negative feedback somewhat diminishes who we are. In reality, it does not, even if it feels like it. We are constantly evolving, ebbing and flowing with the experiences and changes wrought upon us or that we bring unto ourselves. We are never really static, even while we may think it. Therefore, when someone feels that we are a certain way, it’s serves as his record of who we are at that point in time.

It is the other person’s record of his experience with you.

It is a record of the state of things at a point in time, it does not serve to define you in entirety. Even if others talk of behaviour, habit or any other form of repetitive action, it still does not define you.

You are free to change should the need arise. You are free to change in response to your environment.

Secondly, most times, feedback is not an act of caution to help you better yourself, even if it masquerades as such. Most times, people give feedback because the circumstance frustrates them. And how much easier it is for us to try to get others to make the shift than for us to make the shift ourselves. We provide feedback because we seek change. It is change in others that we seek rather than the change we know that we need to embrace within.

That said, we should always be open to listening to others provide feedback – it might help us on our journey.

How do you do this?

1. Don’t react immediately. No matter how hard it is, try to stay silent while you listen and take it all in. Be in a position so that the other person is not only heard but feels heard. This will pay huge benefits.

2. Consider that they may be right. You don’t have a chokehold on how everything should go/appear/run/get done. So why not?

3. Put yourself in their shoes. When you do that, it matters less what their words are and their true intent surfaces. That is indeed what you should focus your efforts and energy on.

And what about giving feedback?

I stick to three pointers.

1. Be honest. If you are going to go down this dangerous path, then go all the way. Honesty is not about brutality in your delivery or feedback. It’s about being upfront, speaking from the heart and laying it on the line. It’s about drawing the connection between the path they have chosen and how it impacts on you. There’s a place for tact somewhere, in all of this, but if you want to help, you need to be true to how you feel or think about the issue or situation.

2. Be prepared that it may not be accepted. You need to be in alignment – at the right place and time – for both you, the giver of feedback and him, the receiver of feedback to understand the undertones, purpose and underlying goal behind an act like this. If this alignment is not in place, if the relationship is not strong enough to withstand this strain, no feedback will be acceptable.

3. Be clear about the purpose of your feedback. There are times, I believe, that people give feedback, not because they genuinely want to help the other on their journey to discovery and improvement. Rather, the provision of feedback is to deal with the irritation the giver of feedback is dealing with, in not having things develop the way they would prefer.

Feedback – to give it or not?

I would say, unless this is a parenting situation, when you need to be very proactive and embrace a more fiduciary relationship (ie give feedback), you should find a way to deal with the situation without the need to give feedback. Negative feedback is hardly easily digested so one must explore more imaginative ways to achieving solutions. And what’s that saying about changing the world starts with yourself? We shouldn’t look outward at others and try to fix them. It works off the assumption that your model or standard is the correct one. Rather, you should look within to see what changes you can make to address some of the issues raised and find out whether you may achieve better results for the other (and for yourself!) in that process.

Feedback – to receive it or not?

No harm done. Listen as quietly as you can. Digest it. And then make your own mind up about it. You have to develop your own yardsticks and standards, not accept the ones placed upon you. And if change is called upon, then so be it. You can make the change as you see fit and you don’t need to explain or justify anything to anyone.

And consider the source and therein, the intent behind, because you won’t put the same weight to the advice given by a stranger as one given by your best friend, will you?


About rowena morais

Media Communications and Editorial Specialist. With my strong professional network of contacts, I help individuals and organisations, particularly those within Human Resource and Technology, strengthen their skill-base and brand through compelling writing, beautiful design, content marketing and publishing. Let's talk.

One response to “Is it as hard to hear negative feedback as it is to deliver it?

  1. vincent bradbury

    As always, very thoughtful, helpful, well put and worth considering and/or using.


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