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Using Negative Feedback to Your Advantage

ThinkstockPhotos-AA001298.jpgWe’ve all been in this situation before. Your supervisor asks you to step into her office, or your boss sets up an unexpected lunch meeting. All of the sudden, you’re in an unwelcome feedback situation.

Something has gone wrong and you’re not sure how to respond. What do you do?

Let’s face it—negative feedback is tough to deal with. But the eBook helps us understand WHY it’s difficult, and offers suggestions for getting past the communication roadblocks inherent in a feedback situation.

Feedback Triggers

For example, the ebook discusses feedback triggers, which can block an effective conversation from even happening. 

There are three types of feedback triggers. This video is a fun way to illustrate them.

Truth Triggers

Truth Triggers are all about the content of the feedback itself. It’s just wrong, or untrue. Why can’t the giver understand that? How can you respond to a truth trigger?

Your answer? By seeking to truly understand.

Instead of viewing the feedback from your perspective, try to see it from the other person’s perspective. The authentic effort you make to shift your point of view will pay dividends, even if it turns out that you were “right” all along.

If you still can’t accept the feedback, ask for more details. This seems counterintuitive. Often when we’re reeling from feedback, the last thing we want to do is engage it. We want it to be over and retreat. But asking for more details will help you understand. For example, “Can you help me see why I wasn’t chosen for the promotion?” Ask for the data the person used to make the decision. When you see the bigger picture, a different picture may emerge—one that you can more easily understand and work with.

Relationship Triggers

Whereas truth triggers are about the content, relationship triggers are about the relationship. A relationship is a system – it’s not that there’s a problem with any one person, but when you put the two together, you’ve got a system. Relationship triggers are triggered by the dynamics in the system. What often happens in relationships, especially those with a history, is what’s called “switch track conversations.”

Switchtracking happens when one individual changes the subject in response to feedback. The train was headed in one direction, but now a new track is formed. This happens all the time. If both the conversations don’t get back on track, the participants will just keep talking past each other. To solve this problem, try to identify each different track verbally, separate them, and decide together to tackle each one that’s important.

Identity Triggers

Whereas truth triggers are about content, and relationship triggers are about the relationship system, identity triggers are all about how you see yourself and where you’re going. Negative feedback threatens the balance, and can create fireworks. I believe this is why American Idol was such a blockbuster show when it first came onto the scene, and has spurred all types of reality talent competition shows.

On American Idol, an aspiring singer would sing in front of three judges, and was instantly critiqued – given feedback. In response to critique, some singers cried and some got angry. The viewing public got to see their reaction to the feedback…and loved it. It made for great television. Identity triggers are perhaps the most explosive because they are very personal and affect our sense of the future.

Now what was happening in front of our very eyes? Identity triggers were going off on television sets all over. These aspiring singers saw themselves as good singers…they saw themselves singing on television and winning the competition and getting big record deals and selling out stadiums. That was the future they had made up for themselves.

But in an instant, Judge Simon Cowell smashed their stories. Identity triggers are tied up in emotion. Strong feelings can get in the way of understanding, so be on guard when your identity trigger is set off, and be careful to remember that the emotions you are feeling can distort your perception of the feedback.

Use Feedback to Your Advantage

You can learn to use negative feedback to your advantage. Feedback doesn’t have to be something you just sit back and take. You can turn feedback around and let it work for you. Turn life-sapping criticism into life-giving gold. Let feedback move you forward!