Dealing with Criticism and Negative Feedback – Admitting When You’re Wrong
Sometimes the hardest part of dealing with criticism and negative feedback is admitting that the other person may be right.
Receiving criticism or negative feedback is never easy. Our tendency is to immediately become defensive, finding ways to poke holes in the other person’s argument or thinking of counterstrikes to make against them
After you have had a chance to think about the criticism and have had the opportunity to calm yourself down and approach the situation with a rational mindset, you will be in a better position to deal with the criticism in the most appropriate way.
Finding Common Ground
When you are ready to reconvene with the person and to discuss the criticism, start by acknowledging any areas with which you agree. Even if you don’t agree with 90% of what they’ve said, if you start by conceding the areas in which you feel they are right, you will put them at ease and reassure them that you take their comments seriously.
For example, you may have been accused of providing a document translation that was not accurate, not completed per the requirements, and one day late. While you may not agree that the translation was inaccurate, and while you may have many valid arguments to show that the translation was in fact completed per the requirements (perhaps because you know that the client didn’t understand or has a wrong idea of the document translation process), it may be perfectly true that you did deliver the assignment one day late. Even though it is probably the least serious aspect of their complaint, if you address that point first you will put them at ease and show that you are not intending to simply argue with everything they say.
When There Is No Common Ground
It is sometimes the case that you will receive criticism that is just completely wrong. Try as you might, you may not be able to find any element of their feedback with which you agree. This can happen sometimes: some clients are just difficult to work with. In that case, the best you can do will probably be to thank them for their feedback or even thank them for their time. This still sends the message that you are making an effort to be cooperative.
Communicating Your Plans to Change
If there are some elements of the criticism that you feel are correct, outline with the person what you plan to do to deal with the issues they have raised. Bear in mind that most people would be too busy feeling embarrassed about being criticised and becoming argumentative with the person to even consider outlining their plans to change. Some of the most loyal customers and clients are those that have put in a complaint and have resolved an issue to their satisfaction. Many people somehow understand that you can’t really tell the quality of a business’ or an individual’s service until you have been through an issue with them, so responding to a criticism or complaint in such a positive and collaborative way will actually be likely to help you keep the client or customer in the future, and even turn them into a loyal fan.
This article is part of our Dealing with Criticism and Negative Feedback article series. Read the other articles in this series for a full plan on how to deal with the inevitable criticism and negative feedback that comes with any job, no matter your profession.