This blog post is written by FionaWorthington Clinical Hypnotherapist and Cognitive Behavioural Coach at the Putney Clinic

I had some uncomfortable feedback a few months back when I was doing a course for work, really, really uncomfortable. I am not great with negative feedback. Never have been! I have to work hard at not reacting. At work that’s okay, I can cover it up and keep my cool. At home where I feel safe, I am prone to lash out. On this particular occasion I was really cross. I believed I had prepared well; I had done a good job so was blind-sided when the feedback was not to my liking. I could feel my temperature rising.

Here are some tips that might help when this happens to you:
1. When you hear the feedback, check-in with your body your mood influences how you react. A real understanding of this can help ease defensive reactions.
2. Learn to really listen to what they say
3. If you can, don’t respond to the comments straight away if you do reflect back to them what they said.
4. Thank them for their comments gives you room to breathe
5. Why is this happening ? What is the motivation behind the comment? Remember it’s for you to learn.
6. Are these comments helpful ? If they are good apply them , if not let them go.
7. Is there any truth in what they are saying?
8. If they are right take responsibility and admit your mistake

I doubt many of us want to hear want hear negative feedback. That is my own Achilles heel but maybe keep in mind some of the ideas listed when you have those feelings of discomfort. If you can only remember one thing, then ask yourself “are the suggestions helpful? Are they of any use to me will they help me improve my skill, my job, my relationship? If they are great use them if not let them go.

1. When you hear the negative feedback see if it’s possible to check-in with your body.

What mood are you in at that moment that you hear the feedback? In my case, I was defensive, I felt attacked, the physical feelings were hot and uncomfortable, I shifted in my chair. By being aware of all this, of what’s going on in our body, breaking down the feelings, the thoughts, the physical sensations, it can give us the room to reflect, to pause. To give us time to make a more informed choice. So do a mini body scan. See if you can name what is going on. You don’t need to do anything just notice. If feeling hot – acknowledge the heat in the body but refrain from wanting it to change it. What thoughts come to mind? Note the anxious thoughts, “okay so here are some anxious, defensive thoughts” rather than saying to yourself “ OMG everyone is attacking me” This enables us to be with the emotion without being swamped or allowing it to overwhelm us. If I can say “oh here is the emotion of anger” rather than “this is so unfair and completely wrong” I am not identifying with the emotion, so I can give myself room to react less defensively.

2. Learn to really listen. It’s really, really hard, as when these comments are flying around it may feel as if there is a spotlight light on you. But practice listening. Firstly, to understand and absorb all that they are saying. Secondly when you consciously listen, truly be aware, it can give you space to hold back and press the pause button. This space may allow you to react least defensively. To step out of automatic pilot to be less likely to shoot from the hip.

3. If you can, don’t respond to the comments straight away. See if it’s possible to go back to them later. If you do have to respond immediately, then reflect back to see if you have understood what they have said and ask them questions to clarify what they mean, get them to be specific. It demonstrates a willingness to understand. This is much less defensive behaviour then arguing or justifying yourself.

4. Thank them for their comments. This doesn’t mean you agree with them, that they are right you have acknowledged their input.

5. You may not like receiving the feedback but remind yourself of why it’s happening. The purpose is to improve your skills, your job

6. Paul Hauck the psychologist and a particular favourite of mine wrote reams on self-esteem and confidence. When I can remember, I have found this suggestion from him to be really valuable. That when you feel or believe that you are being criticized ask yourself these questions “is this helpful or useful to me?” If it is fantastic take it, and if it isn’t let it go.

7. Is there any truth in what they are saying? Very often people have opinions of the way to do something and that is just what it is, it’s just an opinion, it’s not negative feedback it’s just their opinion and it just happens to not agree with you or how you would do things. Learn to distinguish between the two. It doesn’t mean that what you have done is wrong. When I was very young and helping my mum peeling carrots or potatoes, she would correct me if I did not do things her way. I should hold the peeler at a different angle than she would. As a kid it would annoy me but as I grew up I realised that it was just her way of doing things it wasn’t a criticism. It was her opinion she had her way and I had mine. It’s the same with work or personal stuff, people can have opinions about what we do or don’t do but it doesn’t mean what they are say we have done is wrong. So, ask yourself is it fact or an opinion?

8. Are they right ? Have I made a mistake – if so then deflate their sails and admit it, take responsibility. I have found being honest and admitting I am wrong to be the best course of action my whole life. When I was a young broker many years ago, a seasoned trader said to me “the first cut is cheapest” I have applied this adage to many things in my life. When I admit I am wrong or have made a mistake it diffuses so much and gains so much respect however uncomfortable it may feel.

Fiona Worthington –

Fiona offers a range of psychological services at the Putney Clinic.