Don’t Take It Personally

business feedback

There are times when being rational can be extremely helpful and essential.

One occasion is when you receive feedback that cuts you to the core. You might hear your key stakeholder isn’t impressed with your work, or their experience of your relationship management. Ouch.

You might also experience when a boss or colleague:

  • Cuts across you
  • Ignores you
  • Forgets you
  • Critiques you unfairly

Ouch, again.

Oddly enough, if you have experienced any of these examples, you are likely to have been, or are, upset and fuming. You probably want to leave your team, job, or the organisation.

There are some clues here – if you have a strong reaction and feel hurt, dismayed, upset and/or betrayed, then you are likely to be taking the message personally.

What to do – there are some options.   

First, take some time to think and reflect. Consider one or two of these six questions:

  • What has been my experience of the situation/relationship? 
    personal feedback
  • How did I think I was doing?
  • If I were to accept 5% of this was true, how might I approach this situation afresh?
  • If I were to be curious, what would I want to discover?
  • What might I learn from this?
  • If I were to be objective and rational, how might I proceed?

When intense feelings have been triggered, one guess you can make is that you are experiencing yourself “coping” and being reactive, rather than you being responsive and engaged. Your values may have been cut across and your sense of yourself dented.

However, while this “feels” personal, is it?

Secondly, If you don’t take the feedback or situation personally, you might ask:

  • What has generated this response?
  • What does it remind me of?
  • How might I turn this current situation around?

So while the feedback isn’t personal, it is YOU who can be responsible for responding to what is becoming known.

Here’s an example:

Grant had been in his role for five months. He struggled at first to make sense of the job and then began enjoying his work and his team. He sensed he was doing well. At performance review time, his manager let him know his key stakeholder was unhappy. He learned he hadn’t established a good relationship and wasn’t delivering what was expected. Grant was shocked and upset. Up until this moment, his reputation had been rock solid. This was the first time he had heard things weren’t going well. He kept thinking, why wait until now to tell me? He felt betrayed by his teammates (surely they must have known) and his boss for not letting him know earlier. Grant felt ashamed that his stakeholder had not let him know himself. He had so many strong feelings. He began looking for a new job.

What was happening?

Grant took this feedback personally and of course, some of it is personal. It definitely “feels” personal. The particular feedback focused on his relationship with his key stakeholder. By responding with feelings, Grant’s ability to be curious falls away.

Imagine if Grant were not to take this personally. Imagine if he were to look at the situation from other perspectives, what might he see? He might take the perspective of his stakeholder. He might take the perspective of an independent observer or take a perspective two years from now. What might he become aware of? What might assist Grant to become curious, find out what was happening, and then consider his next steps?

If you tend to take feedback personally, here are some questions to consider: 

  • If you were not to take comments or criticisms personally, how might you improve your relationships and your capacity for results?
  • What areas would you increase your capacities to respond?
  • When colleagues shut you out, who might you have a consult with to generate some options for proceeding?
  • Reach out. Who are your confidants, sounding boards and problem solving colleagues?

When you combine thinking with feelings, and consult with others, you are more likely to generate options and possibilities and create new (workable) responses.

© Diana Jones

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