Being receptive to feedback doesn’t mean you have to always agree with the feedback. Remember, feedback is someone’s opinion or perception of you. Yes, your actions and behaviors help shape their opinion, but there are other factors in their own mind influencing their thoughts.
The 3 things you should do when you don’t agree with your feedback are: 1) don’t react negatively; 2) ask clarifying questions for understanding; and 3) decide if you are going to implement it.
Manage your Reaction
The absolute worst thing you can do when you don’t agree with feedback is to argue with the person giving it. That is only going to solidify their decision and make you look overly defensive. There are ways you can explain your side, but only do that when you are managing your emotions properly and can communicate effectively. For example,
‘I appreciate the feedback. My thought process on this at the time was different, do you mind if I share how I made this decision.’
If you are upset at the moment, it is better to ask for a break and come back to this topic once you have composed yourself. But know, just because they hear your side of the story doesn’t mean they are going to change their mind. The only way you can change their perception of you is in future actions – not explaining away something that already happened.
Ask for Clarification
Just because you don’t agree with the feedback doesn’t mean you shouldn’t figure out how they reached their conclusion. If someone tells you that you handled something wrong, spoke out of turn, or made an error you definitely want to know where that’s coming from. To you, it may feel out of left field but if you want to avoid this in the future you need more information. You want to shed light on their thought process because perhaps there was actually something you missed. Sample questions include,
‘What makes you feel this way? What would you have done differently? (After you share your side) Given what I knew at the time, what do you think I should have done differently?’
Make a Decision
As with all feedback, the decision on whether you implement it is entirely up to you. Here are the factors you need to think about when choosing what to do with this new information:
- Is this person credible and trustworthy?
If the answer is no, then you may want to take the feedback with a grain of salt. However, if this is someone you typically trust to coach you then you should reevaluate your actions in question. Even if you don’t agree with the feedback, can you find something you might be able to do differently next time?
For example, a co-worker submitted a request on a project and you denied the request. They told you that you weren’t being a team player and you disagree. However, next time instead of simply denying the request you can provide more explanation of why it couldn’t work so the co-worker could see your thought process and not just assume you weren’t being a team player.
- Does this person’s opinion have a huge impact on your career?
If the person giving you feedback is a decision maker or major influencer in your career path then you need to give their feedback more weight. This includes your boss, your boss’s boss, and any other person who influences hiring and promotion decisions. If they feel they have given you feedback but you don’t do anything to change your behavior next time it is certainly going to leave a bad taste in their mouth and may impact you behind closed doors when decisions are being made. Meaning, even if you don’t agree with the feedback, consider if it’s in your best interest to do something about it anyways.
For example, a manager on another team that you’re collaborating with feels that you’re not confident enough to speak up in group settings. You disagree because on your own team you speak up regularly and just felt you should defer to others on this team out of respect. Since this manager is doubting your confidence, you should find ways to demonstrate confidence within the group more often so he/she doesn’t keep that same perception of you.
- What would happen if you didn’t implement the feedback?
The answer is dependent on how considerable the feedback is. Is it a one-off? Is it something minor that rarely comes up? Or is it something that could potentially stall your career? If the person is credible and is a decision maker in your career, but the feedback was something small then perhaps doing nothing won’t matter.
But, if the feedback is in an area of opportunity that has potential to impact your career it doesn’t matter who gave the feedback to you. Even if that person wasn’t credible or noteworthy, you should definitely make steps to improve whatever it is before someone who can impact your career notices it too.
For example, a co-worker tells you that sometimes when you speak to them your facial expression and tone come across harshly. Since this does have a major impact on how you are perceived, it is wise to start fixing it right away before others start to notice and comment as well.
To wrap up, you aren’t expected to agree with all the feedback you get throughout your career. However, you are expected to be receptive to feedback, which means managing your emotions and handling the conversation professionally.
Ultimately, the decision on whether you will take steps to implement behavior change is up to you. These tips above will help you make a solid decision about which feedback to work on and which to let go. You don’t have to decide right away, and you can always make a different decision if you gather more feedback.
It is important to note, if you keep getting the same feedback repeatedly over time you shouldn’t ignore it. You may not be making the best decision or evaluating the situation well enough. Get help from a mentor or coach that you trust to help you see what you may be missing and figure out the most effective changes you can make to improve your perception.
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