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How to handle destructive feedback and not to take it personally

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Negative feedback is a fact of life: indeed, if you don’t regularly receive it you should worry! When it is constructive, negative feedback helps you to improve at what you do. And taking it well is a great opportunity to demonstrate to your boss that you’re engaged with your work and keen to develop.

But knowing that negative feedback has positive results doesn’t stop it from stinging. It takes calmness and maturity to process criticism like this, but those assets aren’t always easy to access when you’re caught off-guard.

One trick is to slow everything down to give your emotions a chance to settle before you respond. Slow your breathing, keep your body language open and lower your shoulders to relax. Asking questions and repeating back what your critic said can win you more time to think about the feedback and to make sure you understood it correctly.

Hopefully, the person who delivers the negative feedback is able to do so constructively, but regardless of their manner always respond with thoughtful thanks and, when appropriate, a genuine apology. The thanks let them know they’ve been heard and get you into the mindset of ‘being helped.’ The apology should be heartfelt. It helps you to think about what you’re actually apologizing for.

Moving on from negative feedback should be a positive experience. If the feedback was accurate, arrange a follow-up meeting so that you demonstrate your will to improve. If you disagreed with the feedback, write it down as closely as you can remember it and read back through it objectively. If you still disagree, talk it over with a trusted friend or colleague to get a third opinion.

Your emotions are useful when responding to negative feedback, but only if you have them under control. We’ve created a new guide on how to handle negative feedback so that you can draw meaning from the connection between what is said and how it makes you feel.

Approached with the right technique, negative feedback can be a springboard to greater things. Are you ready to step up to the challenge?

How to handle destructive feedback and not to take it personally

With the advent of social media, companies are now closer than ever to their buyers’ feedback. However, these buyers may or may not be charitable with their opinions. Occasionally, a business may encounter a consumer who wasn’t happy with their experience or the product itself.

It can sometimes be difficult, though, for a business owner to separate their personal feelings from the criticism of the brand. For some tips on how to deal with this issue, nine members of Young Entrepreneur Council look at how businesses can avoid taking customer criticism personally and extract the necessary feedback to grow and improve.

Young Entrepreneur Council members discuss how not to take negative business reviews personally.

Photos courtesy of the individual members.

1. Talk About It Sooner Rather Than Later

If it’s bothering you, don’t let it fester. Talk about it. Otherwise, it’ll stick around in your mind and bother you throughout the day and will have a detrimental impact on your productivity. If you have a confidante with whom you can share your feelings of frustration, you’ll allow the feelings to get out and eventually pass. Plus, your friend or colleague might be able to point out something you’re failing to see about the situation to show you why you shouldn’t be so upset. – Tyler Gallagher, Regal Assets

2. Step Away Before Responding

As a business owner, it’s easy to take reviews or comments personally. If you feel hot about a comment, it’s always best to step away from the computer or phone instead of responding immediately. You don’t want to respond emotionally; you want to respond with understanding and respect toward your client. By taking a step back and letting the comment marinate in your mind, you can be level-headed and empathetic with your response as well as express appreciation for the feedback. You can also use negative reviews to fuel and improve your business. Maybe the client has a valid point—something can be improved. Remember that it’s not personal; it’s business. – Nick Friedman, College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving

3. Decide If The Criticism Has Merit

No one likes bad reviews or harsh criticism, but in some cases they can be useful for pointing out areas where you need to make changes. First of all, you have to determine that the customer is speaking in good faith and not simply trolling. There are also going to be customers you can’t please no matter what. Consider the criticism and honestly decide if it has merit. If there’s a real issue with your product or service, you should place your attention on solving the problem. Focus on the actual steps you need to take to address the situation. This could mean dealing with an individual customer or making more fundamental changes to your product or customer service. – Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting

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4. Be Grateful For The Valuable Insight

Every customer interaction is an opportunity to shine. Negative feedback, when constructive, can be very valuable information for a business. First off, you inspired enough passion or disappointment to have someone take the time out of their day and actually write about their experience with your company. Now, depending on whether it is coming from pure frustration or malice, you can go in two directions. Address the problem honestly and thank the person for providing insight into their experience so you can improve. You can also determine whether the review or comment was posted because the person is trying to harm your company. If it was the first, it is a sign and an opportunity to improve your products or services and that is all that matters at the end of the day. – Terry Tateossian, Socialfix Media

5. Humanize The Reviewer

It’s important to humanize the person who left the negative feedback. We have to remember that the person who was unhappy with our work could have had stressors that had nothing to do with us. Also, it’s important to give weight to the reviewer’s feelings and experiences in order to be more empathetic. This is not easy at all, but with some effort and practice, you’ll be able to see the point of view of the person who left the review. From there, you can reach out and try to fix the problem. You can also decide that this is a case where you can’t please everyone, and because of this, you need to write this off as an unpleasant but unavoidable experience. – Blair Williams, MemberPress

6. Be Analytical, Not Emotional

Being an entrepreneur means being able to manage your own emotions like an adult. It means having the sense to ignore trolls maturely, yet also learn from honest criticism. Remember, when someone rejects your idea or product, it might feel like they are rejecting you, but they are not. Be analytical about their response, not emotional. All feedback is an opportunity to learn and grow. – Tyler Bray, TK Trailer Parts

7. Understand That It’s Not Directed At You

First, understand that the bad review or comment is about your business or product or service and not you personally. That can be a tough needle to thread, but you can do it if you make a conscious effort. Next, respond to it so you can get more details and hopefully find a solution, which normally you can do. Plus, when you respond, you just might find that the commenter wasn’t as mad or upset as you thought they were, and that they were just reacting in the moment. Finally, try to learn something from the experience. If the negative review or comment can help you find a way to better run your business, that’s proof right there that the comment wasn’t directed at you. – Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

8. Keep A Sense Of Perspective

If you find a negative review starting to affect you personally, it’s best to keep a sense of perspective on its scale. Odds are, your positive reviews vastly outnumber the negative reviews you receive, and any individual negative comment or review shouldn’t be seen as a representative sample of you, your product or your company. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t take negative reviews seriously, however. Take the time to understand where the customer is coming from and get to the bottom of the problem so that it won’t happen again. Always treat negative reviews as learning experiences, but don’t let one or two negative comments defeat you in the presence of countless positive ones. – Jordan Conrad, Writing Explained

9. Remember You Aren’t The Only One

Resist the urge to immediately react. Instead, take solace in the fact that many of the most successful business leaders (actually, probably all of them) have had tons of critics stand in their way. The upside is that you don’t have to let them block your path. You can move forward knowing that criticism is a natural aspect of entrepreneurship. Over time, you’ll integrate criticisms into your products and services and will create a better customer experience for it. Dealing with criticisms is merely part and parcel of owning a business and never meant to be taken personally. Remember, they’re not critiquing you, they’re critiquing your company. It’s important to remember that we’re separate from our businesses, as hard as that may seem at times. – Amine Rahal, IronMonk Solutions

At a past job, I’d estimate that at least once a week my favorite co-worker would gently place her hand on my shoulder and say, “You just can’t take anything she says personally.” She was the big bad boss, and I had no idea how to make an about-face and get on with my day whenever she offered feedback or even communicated with me about a project I was managing.

But, over time I realized that getting over it and moving on was my only chance of survival in that office. My inner mantra became “It’s not personal.” And every time I began to get rattled because of an email, or constructive criticism, or a backhanded compliment, I’d repeat the three words in my head until a deep calm overtook me.

It turns out that reacting poorly to constructive criticism is something a lot of us do, and when we regularly do it at work, it can be problematic. It’s one thing to fend off the occasional imposter syndrome that affects nearly all of us at one point or another; it can be another altogether to try and do good work when you’re dwelling on something in an unhealthy way.

Who better to offer advice on overcoming this issue than our very own career coaches? Read on for their suggestions for what you can do to stop once and for all taking everything so damn personally.

1. Embrace the Opportunity

When someone provides you with tough feedback, if a project isn’t received with the enthusiasm you expected, or your review didn’t go as planned, you should take the opportunity to get curious and view the situation as ‘good friction.’ In fact, you should seek this friction out whenever you can. Feedback, even that which you don’t agree with or didn’t invite, is where growth, development, and breakthroughs happen. Instead of taking something personally, ask yourself what you can learn from the situation. Don’t forget that diamonds are formed under pressure. Their beauty comes from friction. This can be the same for you in your position and career.

2. Remind Yourself You Don’t Have the Full Picture

You never know who just came back from a funeral. It’s morbid, but it’s also true. People’s lives are complex and multi-dimensional, and with the ever-increasing demands on our time and schedules, people are often racing from one thing to another without much time to process emotions they may be experiencing. So that dazed look someone’s giving you in a meeting? It may have nothing to do with you. Think about how often you meet with someone when you’re distracted by an unpleasant conversation with your boyfriend or an annoying one with your landlord. That quizzical, disappointed, maybe even pissed-off look you’re giving off actually has nothing to do with the person sitting across from you, right? So the next time you’re on the receiving end of one of those looks, don’t assume it’s about you. Instead, remind yourself that you never know who just came back from a funeral.

3. Pause for a Moment

One of my favorite quotes is ‘Take criticism seriously, but not personally.’ Oftentimes we have a quick, emotional reaction to feedback from colleagues, and that makes the situation worse. I would encourage you to pause for a minute and think if there’s anything you can learn from what they’re saying. If there is, use the feedback to your advantage. If not, don’t give it another thought.

4. Choose to Hear Feedback Differently

Re-frame the way you take feedback from others. Focus on helping your boss, co-worker, family, or friend (instead of just yourself), and you’ll start thriving. Develop a thick skin by always looking to the bigger picture in any difficult situation. Relentlessly ask, ‘What am I meant to learn from this? How do I use this feedback to get better and evolve as a person and professional?’ Don’t beat yourself up about mistakes (we all make them). Know that the best opportunities to grow and improve as a professional and human being often come dressed as rebuke or harsh feedback. No single misstep is deadly. If you can learn to process feedback differently and learn from it, you’ll always bounce back stronger, wiser, and more resilient.

5. Plan In-Process Time

Taking things personally is a fear response that happens when you perceive situations as threatening to your ego or identity. If you know you’ll be encountering a situation that’ll trigger your insecurities—say a high-stakes client meeting where you’re expected to perform—structure your schedule for success. Plan ‘in-process time,’ time that’s blocked off for reflection to help you avoid reactive behavior and thought traps like taking things too seriously. In the moment when you get tough feedback you can say, ‘I appreciate hearing your concerns. I’d like to take some time to collect my thoughts so that I can respond.’ Then, use your built-in process time (a walk outside is always a good idea) to calm your mind.

6. Distract Yourself

First, you need to be aware of your vulnerability to this feeling and remind yourself in a kind way—perhaps with a smile—here it goes again. And, before your emotions spins out of control, ask yourself what value there is in feeling this way? Is it meaningful in the long term? Most likely, it’ll be easy to see that it’s not. Once you consider the situation and your reaction, distract yourself by doing something that you know makes you feel good. Call or text your best friend, watch a funny YouTube video, or go buy yourself an iced coffee. If you can get away from the moment and get it off your mind, you’ll feel better and be able to get on with your day.

7. Remember—It’s Just Not About You

Understand that in most cases it’s not about you. People are busy managing competing priorities and an influx of emails. If you’ve received troubling feedback or a mind-boggling email that has you doubting yourself big-time, schedule a follow-up email or phone call. Be polite and to the point and adapt your approach to the person you’re working with. What does he have on his plate? What is her preferred method and style of communication? Find a way to get feedback that’ll help you grow, not shrink.

Three things to remember when you handle criticism in the workplace.

How to handle destructive feedback and not to take it personally

I often look like this when I take feedback personally.

I recently finished reading a book called, The Four Agreements. The title is a bit hokey. But the content is spot-on.

The book talks about the importance of creating personal freedom. One of these four agreements to create personal freedom is: “Don’t take things personally.”

This really hit home for me. I realized how often I take things personally — especially when it comes to giving and receiving feedback in the workplace.

Our tendency is to interpret the feedback we hear as a personal attack. It’s the biggest reason for why we don’t ask others for feedback.

When someone gives us feedback on our performance at work or about how our company is doing, we get an icky feeling in the pit of our stomach. “What?! How could this person think that?!”

We’re scared to hear something that we might not want to hear. So we avoid asking for feedback.

That’s a problem.

Not wanting to hear feedback means we shut ourselves off from information that will almost certainly be useful in some way.

In any piece of feedback, there is a nugget of helpful information. You’re guaranteed to learn something about a person or your company. Maybe it’s about how your actions are perceived by your employees, or the sentiment about a recent change you made to the company — that information is useful.

You don’t have to agree with the feedback, but you will learn something in listening to it.

The key is to not take feedback personally. Here’s how…

First, remind yourself: “It’s not all about me.”

There are other external forces shaping why a person may be giving you this feedback.

Maybe something happened earlier that day that caused them to be in a sour mood. Or, maybe something happened with their old boss that’s caused them to believe “this work environment sucks.” It has nothing to do with you.

Second, remind yourself: “I don’t need to be liked.”

You don’t need your employees to like you. You do need them to like their jobs and feel fulfilled and excited and motivated to work. But you don’t need them to like you as a person.

The minute you let go of the notion that you don’t need to be liked, by your employees, your leadership team, etc., your focus begins to shift toward what’s best for the company overall. Doing so allows you to open up and hear things that you might’ve previously taken personally.

Third, remind yourself of what you care about.

You do care about your company being successful. You do care about creating the best environment for your employees to thrive.

So if that’s the case, focus on hearing that feedback through the filter of:

“How can I listen for information that will help move my company forward?”

After all, that’s what you want. You want your company to do well. Listen for things that will help you meet that goal — everything else is secondary or irrelevant.

Granted, it’s incredibly hard to not take something personally.

But in reminding yourself of these three things — it’s not about you, you don’t need to be liked, and you care deeply about your company as a whole — you can begin to escape the trap of taking things personally.

By committing to not taking feedback personally, you open your mind to suggestions that could help your company. Employees will appreciate your willingness to ask for feedback — I promise.

You and your company will be so much better for it.

How to handle destructive feedback and not to take it personally

Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing Hillary Clinton speak at the annual Women in the World Summit. My second favorite moment of the talk (after moderator Thomas Friedman asked her if there “were any other jobs she’d be interested in”) was her biggest piece of advice to young professionals:

“It’s important to take criticism seriously—not personally.”

In other words, dealing with the tough feedback you’ll inevitably receive from bosses, clients, co-workers, and, in Hillary’s case, the American public, is a fine line. On one hand, knowing where you’re not meeting expectations and understanding the negative perceptions others have of you is the only way you’ll learn and grow as a professional.

On the other, letting every harsh word or critique hit you in the gut is a fast way to make your confidence—and ability to do what you know you’re best at—crumble.

As someone who often writes about the power of feedback and who also has a legitimate panic attack before every performance review, I know that’s often easier said than done. So I’ve pulled together my all-time favorite tips that help the dealing-with-feedback process be a bit less painful.

First, consider this advice from Barking Up the Wrong Tree about how to approach and process any piece of criticism you receive:

So, make two lists: One is things they’re wrong about. And one is things that, well, they might be right about.

Next time you get feedback, make three columns:
1. What they said
2. What’s ‘wrong’ with the feedback
3. What might be right

This lets you vent your frustration in column 2 but column 3 makes sure you don’t lose the value of what they’re saying.

The next step? Get into problem solving mode. Look at column three, and ask yourself: If this feedback was 100% true, what would I need to do with it? or, alternatively, If someone I knew received this feedback, what would I tell him or her to do?

Using this “if” language is a simple mind trick that lets you process the criticism seriously while removing some of the emotion out of the equation. You allow your mind to shift from beating yourself up about what you did wrong to brainstorming about what you can do to get ahead in the future.

Hey, if it worked for Hillary, it’s advice worth following.

How to handle destructive feedback and not to take it personally

Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing Hillary Clinton speak at the annual Women in the World Summit. My second favorite moment of the talk (after moderator Thomas Friedman asked her if there “were any other jobs she’d be interested in”) was her biggest piece of advice to young professionals:

“It’s important to take criticism seriously—not personally.”

In other words, dealing with the tough feedback you’ll inevitably receive from bosses, clients, co-workers, and, in Hillary’s case, the American public, is a fine line. On one hand, knowing where you’re not meeting expectations and understanding the negative perceptions others have of you is the only way you’ll learn and grow as a professional.

On the other, letting every harsh word or critique hit you in the gut is a fast way to make your confidence—and ability to do what you know you’re best at—crumble.

As someone who often writes about the power of feedback and who also has a legitimate panic attack before every performance review, I know that’s often easier said than done. So I’ve pulled together my all-time favorite tips that help the dealing-with-feedback process be a bit less painful.

First, consider this advice from Barking Up the Wrong Tree about how to approach and process any piece of criticism you receive:

So, make two lists: One is things they’re wrong about. And one is things that, well, they might be right about.

Next time you get feedback, make three columns:
1. What they said
2. What’s ‘wrong’ with the feedback
3. What might be right

This lets you vent your frustration in column 2 but column 3 makes sure you don’t lose the value of what they’re saying.

The next step? Get into problem solving mode. Look at column three, and ask yourself: If this feedback was 100% true, what would I need to do with it? or, alternatively, If someone I knew received this feedback, what would I tell him or her to do?

Using this “if” language is a simple mind trick that lets you process the criticism seriously while removing some of the emotion out of the equation. You allow your mind to shift from beating yourself up about what you did wrong to brainstorming about what you can do to get ahead in the future.

Hey, if it worked for Hillary, it’s advice worth following.

How to handle destructive feedback and not to take it personally

After a project is complete, I always ask my team for feedback about how we can improve for the future. While the feedback is often positive, it’s inevitable that negative feedback arises from time to time. And when I’m receiving feedback about my company, it can be hard to not take the feedback personally. Having been working hard on my business for two years, negative feedback can almost feel like someone just called my baby “ugly”.

Over the years, I’ve learned that all types of feedback can be crucial to self-improvement and better business processes even if the commentary stings at the start. Here’s how I’ve learned to handle the not-so-fun topics of conversation in startup life.

1. Respond, don’t react

It can be easy to become defensive in the throes of a negative conversation. When I’ve been given negative feedback in the past, I would sometimes snap into defensive mode, discounting what the person was saying, instead of listening to their view.

Today, I always try to listen to what the person is saying, look at their complete view, and ask questions to learn more about how they came to their opinion. Not always reacting can be hard, but keeping in mind that the other person has a different view can be a great starting point.

“Responding well, versus reacting, to negative workplace feedback requires self-awareness and self-control to leverage the conversation for a workplace win,” explained Sarah Kaler and Brenda Wilkins, founders of SoulPowered, a leadership development that works with dozens of executives each months.”To be truly effective we must hit pause on our instinctive reactions to defend or deflate. Instead we must respond with open listening and questioning for mutual understanding. Regardless of role or position, these situations present opportunities to demonstrate your leadership and communication skills; changing the trajectory of a conversation and even your career.”

2. Understand where the feedback is coming from

Everyone has a different perspective on the world going on around them. By taking a step back to understand their views and comments, you might gain a better understanding of their opinion.

“Responding, versus reacting, means shifting from your first emotional reaction to a higher level focus on how to create the best outcome from a conversation, or event; for yourself, your relationship with the other person, or even your company,” continued Kaler and Wilkins.​

“It doesn’t mean you don’t feel the feelings or they are unimportant, it means focusing less on personalizing the feedback (react), and instead shifting the focus to communicating for a positive outcome (respond).”

Here’s how you do that:

Listen, don’t defend.

Next, ask for specific examples of feedback, but seek to understand. Listen don’t defend.

Ask what the person giving you the feedback would consider more effective behavior from you or others involved. Listen don’t defend.

Say thank you and acknowledge their perspective (this doesn’t mean you agree, instead it means you are listening). Give your appreciation for sharing with you.

Now, either (1) respond verbally with a mindset/attitude to collaborate, be solution-based, and work towards positive outcomes, or (2) let the other person know you are going to think about the conversation and will follow up with them by a specific date (at which time go back to option 1 above).

3. Choose your work battles wisely

When you’re leading a team you’ll be given lots of feedback, both positive and negative. While some feedback warrants a discussion on whether it’s correct or not, I’ve learned that a majority of workforce battles aren’t worth the time or the energy to push back on. Some criticism might seem like a personal attack in the short term, but in the long term, two negative commentary will no longer feel like a big deal. Simply accepting feedback and waking up the next day for a fresh start can help you keep your professional relationships strong.

Whether you’re experiencing positive or negative feedback, take a deep breath, pause for a moment to think, and have a conversation in which both parties’ feelings are accounted for.

How to handle destructive feedback and not to take it personally

Feedback, in whatever form, can have a positive impact on any working professional, helping them assess what they are doing right or where there is room for improvement. Criticism or negative feedback in particular is quite valuable as it can lead to increased performance, productivity and overall effectiveness, when implemented correctly.

But receiving and acting on negative feedback, whether from customers or coworkers, is not as easy as it sounds. Depending on how it is delivered, criticism can make the recipient angry or defensive, with potentially harmful effects on their performance.

These six entrepreneurs share some of the best ways to respond to negative feedback to turn an uncomfortable situation into something productive and constructive for everyone involved.

Stay silent and reflect.

“I have had plenty of experiences in situations like this. Instead of getting defensive, stay silent and reflect on what you have been told,” says Julian Montoya, manager of JM11 Investments. By not reacting immediately, you can determine if the feedback actually applies to you or if it’s a criticism based on inaccurate information.

“When it has been thoroughly thought through and you have evidence in your mind, calmly communicate these thoughts to the other party and take the negative feedback constructively. Then, have a plan of action so the person who gave it to you has a timeline for when the issue will be resolved.”

Never take it personally.

A big mistake many working professionals make when facing criticism is that they take it personally, believes Mauricio Cardenal, founder of Roofing Marketing Pros. “One of the most profound lessons I’ve learned in my life is that we should not take things too personally. Yes, negative feedback is painful sometimes, but I know that my actions aren’t a reflection of me.”

Instead, people should embrace criticism as a way of potentially bettering themselves. “Use the feedback to improve. Negative feedback, no matter how harsh, can be a springboard to making massive changes in your life,” Cardenal adds.

Don’t dwell on the past.

How you react to negative feedback boils down to taking responsibility and focusing on the solution, according to Drew Gurley, founder of Redbird Advisors. This is especially true when it comes to rectifying a customer-facing problem.

“The past is the past. Don’t recap what happened and talk about how it could have been prevented. Instead, address the customer’s needs in that moment and identify a solution to show them they are the lifeblood of your business and you value them,” Gurley advises. “Once that has happened, you can reflect and improve your processes moving forward.”

Assess the source.

“While I’m open to negative feedback, my work has made me particularly sensitive to the line between negative feedback and destructive criticism,” says Thursday Bram, writer and editor with The Responsible Communication Style Guide. The first step when assessing feedback, according to Bram, is considering the source.

“Does the critic in question have similar goals? Context for the situation? A perspective I’m missing? Great, I want to hear that feedback,” she explains. “Is that critic rude? Speaking just to hear themselves talk? Unaware of the underlying situation? I’m not going to listen to that.”

Reframe and ask for clarification.

Sean Harper, co-founder of Kin Insurance, thinks the idea of negative feedback should be reframed entirely. “Feedback is useful. Once I started thinking this way, it made me realize I’m grateful for the opportunity to see an experience from another point of view and hopefully improve.”

And if the criticism feels undeserved, you should never hesitate to ask questions. “When I feel a comment is unfounded, I ask for clarification so I can understand where the other party is coming from,” Harper adds.

Prioritize preserving communications.

When negative feedback is provided, all that matters is ensuring that the other party feels heard so as to keep communication open, according to FiveFifty Founder and CEO Ryan Wilson.

“Someone told you something that was hard to hear. Maybe it was tough love, maybe it was simply petty. A sincere ‘thank you’ can go a long way, and follow-up questions can shift a complaint into a productive conversation,” Wilson explains. “Later, on your own time, parse out what bits of the feedback you can use to improve.”

How to handle destructive feedback and not to take it personally

When I asked my client Jessica how her relationship with her manager was going since we last spoke, there was a long pause.

“Jessica, what happened?” I asked.

“She ripped apart a presentation I put together. She said I needed to start over from scratch because it totally missed the mark. I couldn’t stop thinking about our conversation all weekend!”

Maybe you’ve found yourself in Jessica’s shoes, feeling angry, insecure, or demoralized after getting bad feedback. When someone criticizes your work, it can feel like a confirmation of your inner critic saying you’re not good enough. Other times, a single offhanded comment (“you look tired”) launches you into an existential crisis about how you’re too old and have accomplished nothing with your life.

But if you want to do anything important in the world, you’ll inevitably get negative feedback. Why not learn to get better at it? Besides, mastering the art of responding to criticism like a pro is linked to higher job satisfaction and is the cornerstone of building trust in any relationship.

Here’s how to respond positively to negative feedback, find the good in it, and fortify your confidence as a result:

First, thank them. Seriously.

You may be tempted to lash out and give that person a piece of your mind.

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Before you say something you’ll regret (or that’ll get you fired), pause. Don’t panic. Practice being aware of your emotional reaction.

Then, buy yourself time to calm down and gain distance from the comments by saying something like “Thanks, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts” or “I’ll need a moment to digest that”.

By doing so, you use your empathy skills to achieve two things: (1) you make the person feel heard and validated and (2) you gain control of your emotional response so that you respond respectfully.

Find the Lesson

After you’ve given yourself some space to process what’s been said, you’re ready to evaluate the feedback objectively.

Keep in mind that criticism is a reflection of one person’s opinions and beliefs, including their fears. For example, your family may be critical of your career choices when in fact they’re just worried about you. Do your best to de-personalize their comments and assume positive intent.

Find a growth opportunity within the criticism by asking for specific examples about where you could improve or what you could do differently next time.

Go on the Offense

Instead of shuddering away from feedback except at performance review time or when you have a fight, solicit it proactively.

This process, called desensitization, involves gradually exposing yourself to scary situations until the anxiety dissipates. The more comfortable you get having difficult conversations, the easier they become (and the more your confidence grows as a result).

Look for low-stakes opportunities to show your work to new people, setting up regular one-on-ones with your boss, or even creating a weekly date night so you can have important conversations with your partner. In Braden’s case, he stopped fearing his boss’ criticism by getting his input on presentations earlier and more often.

You won’t please everyone all the time and negative feedback is a natural consequence of going for your goals. Remember, though, that at the end of the day the opinion that matters the most is the one you hold of yourself.