In professional relationships, the purpose of negative feedback is to help the person receiving it to improve specific skills. For example, part of a language teacher’s job is to test the students’ proficiency in spoken and written language. Most of the people I know are uncomfortable with being criticised, so how can we manage our emotions resulting from negative feedback and focus on the information content of the criticism?
Working towards a common goal
Both the person giving the feedback and the person receiving the feedback play an important role for the effective communication of the content of the feedback. In an ideal world, the person who criticises should be aware of giving the feedback in such a way that the other person does not lose the motivation to improve.
Assessing someone’s work is not strictly about the technical mistakes but also about the non-verbal communication, which if it was to be translated into words should sound like, “It is not the end of the world to make mistakes. I am here to help you work on them.”
It feels good to be the expert
One must be acknowledged as an expert or as a superior in order to be in the position to assess someone else’s work. Being in a power position, one may think that there is no time to consider the impact that the feedback might have on the emotional state of the person receiving it.
And if the emotions are reflected on the face of the person being criticised, some people may even enjoy giving the negative feedback in a harsh way.
Remember to believe in yourself
Receiving negative feedback can have a detrimental effect on self-confidence and motivation.
For example, when the teacher says, “Your essay contains major grammar mistakes.”, the information content of the feedback can be overshadowed by the pair of eyes looking daggers at you.
In that instant, say to yourself, “I am allowed to make mistakes!”
Negative feedback could be given with style
By paying attention to the tone of voice and the choice of words, it can be possible to give negative feedback in a neutral or even friendly manner. If you are the CEO who assesses the performance of the marketing manager, or a language teacher assessing the essay of a 12 years old boy, a friendly behaviour can make it easier to receive the feedback.
If the words convey a feeling of support, it is easier for the person being criticised to commit to improving. The giver of feedback will know that the feedback is well received when questions are asked and further steps for improvement are discussed.
The positive side of the negative feedback
In the end, receiving negative feedback can be the source of more creative ideas about the work we do. It helps us come up with something new and better in our work.
Criticism is a reminder that we are doing a good job and we can do it even better!
How do you deal with negative feedback? You are welcome to share with us in the field for comments.