“EVERYONE GETS SHITTY FEEDBACK sometimes. There are a variety of reasons for this, starting with the fact that giving feedback is difficult and most people are terrifically bad at it. But even those who have developed strong feedback skills will still sometimes do it poorly, because the attention and care required to do it well are so often in short supply; or because the systems we occupy do not incentivize the effort. All of this means that shitty feedback is out there, and while we can and should work to prevent it, we also need mechanisms for dealing with it when it happens.
A lot has been written about how to avoid giving bad feedback, but I want to tackle the flip side: what do you do with feedback that sucks?-Mandy Brown, “Accept, Reframe, Reject.” aworkinglibrary.com. November 1, 2022
This is a variation of the truth that there are always three actions available to us for any circumstance. We can accept it. We can change it. Or, we can leave it. I’d argue that the vast majority of criticism from others is a commentary on their own issues. It often has little to no relevance to the person being commented upon. So, almost everything either needs to be reframed or rejected. The crucial question is: what can I learn from this criticism?
This piece talks about the first action. I think the most important point is to not defend yourself. It is rare that this is necessary, and it is often our first reaction. You can simply say, “Thanks for sharing your point of view. I’ll be sure to give it some thought.” You’ve not accepted that their criticism is valid. But, you have accepted that they have expressed their point of view. You have heard it. You are considering it. This is all most people want: to be heard and consideration.
Of course, there are situations where you have to do something different, such as the supervisor at work example she uses. But, even there a simple: “I’ll do better,” will often suffice.
Politeness costs nothing. Listening to people costs nothing. These can be effective avenues for getting feedback on our behavior from the outside world. But, it’s rare for a person to know us well enough to give feedback that can simply be accepted. This is true of even people that know us well. We all have different values and ways of looking at the world, and we need to reframe input to make it valuable in light of our idiosyncrasies. Feedback, particularly the unsolicited kind, almost never does that.
Also, people that you don’t know rarely give feedback worth considering. They are commenting without context, which is generally worthless.