Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The FIRST THING You Do with Negative Feedback

Your internal reaction should not guide your conversation

Truly honest feedback is rarer than an empty parking lot at Costco.

Most times we are scared to be too harsh, because we don’t want to offend the person. It’s good to remember that giving honest and caring feedback is difficult for others as well.

(Yes, I do realize that sometimes people give feedback that is intentionally cruel, often hiding behind false names in the feedback section. Today’s lesson helps with that as well.)

Either way, what is the first thing you should do when you hear negative feedback, and your heart starts racing a little bit?

I have developed a response that helps me to NOT overreact, and to make certain I’m hearing effectively. Here is Dr. Rob’s “1-2-3 Response for Receiving Negative Feedback.”


Take 1 deep breath.

We all know there are benefits to being mindful, noticing your breathing, and meditation. I don’t do those things, but I probably should. But I do know that even 1 purposeful breath resets my mind and emotions under fire… and two long breaths looks like I’m stalling.

It helps immensely to think about your breath! Try it now. Take a deep breath and think about your chest expanding, then the air being exhaled through your nose. Now, try it again! This time pretend you have just heard some hurtful, negative feedback… now take that breath!

Do you see how thinking about that breath, takes away some of the emotional sting of what you heard… allowing you to respond less emotionally and more practically? If you did this exercise, you already see the difference. If you skipped it, you won’t remember to try it when you are under fire.


Now give a 2-step response.

“Thank you for giving me that feedback, I really appreciate you making that effort. May I ask a follow-up question?”

Always thank them
. If they were being mean, at least you know where they stand! But most times, people want to help you. Either way, I’d rather have negative feedback that is expressed than negative thoughts that I know nothing about.

But about that follow-up question… this question will depend on what they said!

  • “Dr.Rob, you really hurt that person’s feelings when you said their work wasn’t acceptable.”
    After thanking them, I’ll ask, “Do you believe it was because they thought their work was superior, or for another reason?”
  • “Dr.Rob, you always think your way is the right way and you won’t listen to others.”
    After thanking them, I’d ask, “Is this more about a recent decision or a long-term pattern that you see in my leadership?”
  • “Dr.Rob, when you said that in the meeting it hurt my feelings.”
    Thank you…and I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings. I take full responsibility for my actions. Then I would ask, “I want to make certain I’m hearing you at the heart level, can you please tell me why that was so hurtful?

Thank them, then ask a kind and meaningful question.


Offer a 3-part conclusion.

1. Again, I want to thank you.

2. You pointed out that ...(summarize their heart concern).

3. As a result, I want you do know that ... (MY RESPONSE). It could be any of these or something else:

  • I sincerely apologize. What can I do to make it right?
  • I understand your concern, and I’m thankful you shared it.
  • I will consider your thoughts and get back to you.
  • You helped me realize ___________ about myself. I’m forever grateful that you cared enough to say something.
  • You feel one way, and I feel another way. We disagree on this specific issue, but we always know that we can come to each other with concerns.


Negative feedback is difficult. Often, it is exactly what we need to begin to recognize a blind spot. Other times, it’s meant only to hurt us. Either way, we alone are responsible for our reaction, both internally and externally.

Respond wisely. You will grow. Often you win a friend. And you always know that you can and will hold it together under pressure.


Dr. Rob

Get awesome articles like this once a week!