Feedback. That nasty little word that means you’re going to hear something you don’t really want to hear, in order to be “better”. Really, it’s a blessing, but boy can it sting when you receive it.

Last month, I received a piece of feedback that took me a few days to process. In a meeting, I seriously stumbled over my introduction. I don’t normally mess up introductions and I knew this one was bad. So I was extra mortified when one of the partners provided the feedback that the introduction had not gone well.

Logically, I know how to handle this. I’m a coach. And in total nerdiness, I actually love feedback. To me, it’s like “Wait, you like me enough to save me from making this same mistake again? How great is that? Thank you!” Like I said, nerd.

But feedback can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow. Feedback can cut to the core of your being and make you question other pieces of your psyche that have nothing to do with anything related to the actual feedback. 

Feedback can be gasoline for your personal demons if you let it. Don’t let it.

Here’s the process that works for me:

Review. Review the actual feedback in your mind. I’m talking the actual words that were said to you, not what you interpreted them to be. For example, the actual words that were said to me were “I think you should practice your introduction before our next meeting. The last one wasn’t what we had talked about and I’d like it to be cleaner the next time we run into this situation.” Here’s what I interpreted. “You totally @#%ed up the introduction, you came across looking like you didn’t know what you were doing, made all of us cringe and the customer wonder what you were doing in the room. Fix it.” Not quite the same.

Stop. Scientifically, your amygdala has just interpreted this information as an attack on you and is going into action to save you. The normal human response is will always be something the effect of, “no, you’re wrong.” And if you haven’t already defended your way out of the situation in real-time, your fight/flight reflex might look a little a whinge session at the bar that night with the person you know will agree with you. You’re probably mad, sad, frustrated, embarrassed…all mixed together. Don’t react now. Stop.

Step away. Go for a walk. Hang out with a friend. Play with your kid. Sleep on it. Do something so you’re not ruminating on it. Let it settle. Time away from the thoughts allows your brain to slowly process the information out of your amygdala into your frontal lobe, where language and judgement are held, giving you a chance to reflect differently on the situation and put words to your feelings. When you come back to time with yourself, see how your thoughts may have changed without you realizing it.

Talk about it. NOW talk about it with an objective, safe person. Talk about the actual feedback. Talk about how you’re feeling. Saying it out loud allows you to tease out what’s true and what may be a little crazy. For example, you may say something like “I feel like I can never go back there again.”  In your head, your demons have been feasting on this statement. Out loud, it seems a little excessive for the situation.

Reflect. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t tell you to look in the mirror. Feedback can be interesting because it can be subjective, and it’s easy to write it off as so. People don’t give feedback if it’s not true – at least for them. Whether it’s subjective or not, you owe it to yourself, and sometimes your career, to take it to heart. Ask yourself, “What’s true about what I heard?”

In my case, the introduction I gave wasn’t exactly what we had talked about. True. I had gone off-script. We all want it to be cleaner next time. True.  Practicing is a great way to make it better. True. Does it suck that I screwed up? Yeah. Does it suck even more that other people noticed it? Oh yeah. Was the feedback true? 100%.

Acknowledge and move on. Take what is true. Accept it as a gift. Acknowledge the pieces that can be changed. Incorporate the changes think will make a difference. Release. Move on. Do NOT let it eat you up.

Note: there are times that feedback comes from a place of hurt inside the other person. If you are coming to the honest conclusion that this is the case, and what they’re saying has no truth to it, ignore it.

These steps aren’t always easily managed on your own. We help people work through things like this. Call us. 410-337-4940.