Your guide to bouncing back from negative feedback

It’s that moment we all hate. Whether you get the call to step into the boss’s office or you receive a complaint from a client or customer, it’s painful to hear someone say they thought you did a bad job.

But it’s also valuable information. Knowing where you need to improve your performance is vital to stepping up the career ladder or to growing your customer base.

And it all starts with learning the right way to react when the criticism comes in. Have a look at this guide for some ideas.

Take a moment

The first thing to know is that you don’t need to respond right away: in fact, it’s probably best just to listen and let your emotions cool down before you try to respond.

That gives you time to gradually change the way you see the feedback: it’s productive information rather than a personal attack. “When we see the bigger picture, it helps us put feedback in its proper perspective. Then and only then should we decide how to respond,” says organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich.

Show that you’re open to criticism

It may seem hard to believe, but most bosses hate to give critical feedback and customers hate to complain. By showing you’re open to the feedback, you can instantly build a rapport and show you’re on the same side.

Alison Green, who writes a popular blog solving workplace problems, suggests saying: “I really appreciate you telling me this. I didn’t realize this was a problem, and I’m grateful that you raised it.” You don’t have to admit anything, just show that you’re listening.

Get more information

Doing some extra research will help you respond to criticism better. You need to find out whether you’re dealing with a one-off incident or a systematic problem. This might lead to information that gets you off the hook: but by then, you’ll be dealing with facts, not getting defensive.

“Avoid engaging in a debate; instead, ask questions to get to the root of the actual issues being raised and possible solutions for addressing them,” says career development expert Nicole Lindsay.

Always follow-up

After doing your research and drawing up an action plan, check in with the person who made the complaint to see if they’re satisfied with progress.

“If you don’t, you’ll look like you’re shirking a tough conversation or not taking it seriously,” says Alison Green. But if you do, you’ll often impress the complainant with your commitment to putting things right.”