We all have had times when a loved one, friend or boss has had something they felt compelled to share, and I don’t mean some skeleton they’d been hiding.  I’m talking about criticism aka feedback aka learning experience aka because they care. Whatever the lead-in may be, many people React with emotions when they need to ACT on facts. This is easier said than done you say, but with a little preparation you can work to become a master.

Unless for a formal work review, criticism is never on your schedule it’s always when the other person is ready and you’re not. The easiest way to deal with this is don’t reject it, embrace it, and welcome the feedback. Example; your friend or boss calls you over and wants to discuss something with you that you may or may not be aware of. Once they set the stage with key words like; I’m concerned; I’ve noticed; there’s a perception; there’s something I’ve been meaning to say, our gut reaction is to tense up and prepare for the defense. Don’t.  Instead take it as an early warning for an opportunity to express yourself in a meaningful way with undivided attention.

LISTEN FIRST, and take a note or two, unless asked a specific question, let the other person get it off their chest. TAKE PAUSE to reflect on what they said and make sure you understand there point and meaning. Just because you’re talking to each other doesn’t mean you’re communicating. Try not to interrupt! Wait your turn and ASK QUESTIONS and for SPECIFIC EXAMPLES as the case may be. In a constructive way turn your defensive reaction into positive action. No one ever said feedback has to be a one-way street. To get the ball rolling on your end try saying the following. “Let me first start by saying I appreciate your candor and thank you for bringing this to my attention.” If you’re really caught off guard you may try, “I really want to get to the bottom of this, I’d like to think about what you said and come back with some meaningful thoughts.”

Depending on the issue at hand you may handle it in a variety of ways but by holding fast to these steps you will soon understand the genesis of the topic and be able to categorize it into three main actions. One – the feedback is true, relevant and needs to be addressed, Two – the feedback may not be entirely fact based and further discussion and/or investigation is warranted, Three – the feedback is unsubstantiated and a clear action plan cannot be formed. The third may seem like a non-action but doing nothing is an action in itself.  Be sure to memorialize your interaction in a note to yourself while it’s fresh in your mind. This can be helpful for later reflection and recall.

Now without knowing the situation or issue, it is impossible to coach to infinite scenarios. However the basis is the same, be a good listener and try and understand what the other person is trying to express; take time to reflect on what was said; ask questions and get examples if necessary; and above all when in doubt don’t pout. Walking away from the conversation with an open mind and positive attitude is your best defense. You can always come back in a day or two to clarify the issues and work collaboratively on solutions.

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