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What To Do With Feedback That Hurts

It has happened to all of us. We’ve received feedback from another person that hurt just a little. It can feel worse if the person giving the feedback is a person you respect. If it’s a teacher, mentor, coach, or even parent you hold in high regard, it can feel awful for them to tell you about your weaknesses.

I had this happen to me recently. I was told I wasn’t passionate about an employment opportunity in my field because I did not make myself available for an interview during a Thanksgiving weekend.

Here are the details.

I was emailed directly and offered to do a video conference interview on the evening on Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. I responded on Wednesday with times and dates I was available for the following week. That Saturday in the evening, I did not get email but rather an automated response through the job search platform that I was not selected to move forward in the application process.

I assumed that someone else had been offered and accepted the position. I reached out through email to inquire about feedback on how I can improve my resume and experience to obtain a similar position in the future. I received this response:

Reading this response my heart sank. I had a million reasons, thoughts, and excuses as to why I only offered times in the following week:

Just to list a few.

I wanted to respond right away, but if I had done that I would not have given a response I would have been proud of. Instead I responded thanking him for the feedback and noting it will not happen again.

As of writing this, the position opening is still listed on several job posting websites.

Feedback can fall in two general and board categories. It can either align with how you view yourself or go against how you view yourself.

If you see yourself as an intelligent and planning person, it hurts when another person says your choices are uneducated and not well thought out. If you see yourself as a caring person, it hurts when someone tells you that you’re not thinking about others.

I view myself as a considerate, hard-working individual. However, in my example, I was told that I did not view the presented opportunity as important. Therefore, I was overlooked for the position. This hurts because I believe I was being thoughtful and responding quickly to emails. I believe I was demonstrating consideration for the employer’s time. But that was not the case.

The core issue is personalizing the feedback. If I am told my actions are not that of a passionate individual, then that must mean I’m not a passionate person. This is an unproductive pattern of thinking. Feedback from others does not define who you are.

In order to make any positive improvement you first need to develop a greater sense of self-awareness. Which of the following do you find yourself falling into when you get feedback?

The first and natural reaction is to become defensive. To think of all the ways to explain yourself, defend your choices, and clarify your actions. In many ways, these are just excuses. This is an attempt to remove the blame from yourself. While you may have good reasons, often times the other person is not interested in your excuses.

A secondary natural reaction is allowing your emotions to take control. Many people pair their defensiveness with anger. Moving focus away from their own actions to focus on the action of the other person. When you use anger to demonstrate your point, you lose credibility and respect quickly. Another emotion that can impede your ability to communicate effectively is sadness. Sadness has the potential influence your speech to come across as a victim in the situation. There is a chance that sadness is causing you to sound like you’re looking for pity from the other person.

Armed with a greater sense of self-awareness, you will notice when these emotions are bubbling to the surface and potentially influencing your judgment. Typically regretful decisions are made when you make decisions with the emotional part of the brain rather than the logical part. You can notice the emotions then work to separate the emotion from your next actions. This separation can be done through an intention breathing pattern, a positive form of self-talk, or if the situation allows for it confiding in a trusted friend or family member.

Now this does not mean all feedback is good feedback. Not all feedback is worth spending time on. Other times, it is just plain criticism. Criticism involves judgement and faultfinding, whereas feedback is an evaluation to pass on corrective information. There are times where people are unnecessarily rude and cruel. Those are not situations in which you would work to consider the lesson to learn.

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