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Constructive Feedback vs. Constructive Criticism

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Recently, I have been doing Field Coaching with clients.  I sit in on a live coaching session and then critique the coach, in order to improve their coaching skills.  The managers I have coached accept the constructive feedback easily.  The employees being coached do not always respond with the same enthusiasm while being given the feedback or recommendations to improve his/her behavior.  There are a few reasons for their willingness to buy into the recommendations and their reason for pushing back and rejecting the advice given.

  1. Perception is reality.  If the employee perceives the feedback or recommendations as negative, their body language to tune out of the conversation becomes obvious.
  2. Some see constructive feedback, as just that…constructive.
  3. Presentation, given to change behaviors, can make the pill sweet or soar to swallow, depending on the coach’s approach.  One recommendation that I always make is to use the words, “Constructive Feedback” versus “Constructive Criticism.”  The word criticism is a negative word.  The word feedback is much easier to receive.
  4. Past experiences also will impact the perception of the coach’s message.  We have all had to deal with rejection, in the past.  Examples of rejection occur when we are young and dating, or at some point when we have had to deal with a broken heart.  Once we entered the work force and began our careers we have encountered criticism by a boss.  Sometimes this criticism was delivered properly, and my guess is that often it probably was not.  How we responded to those learning experiences has impacted how thick skinned we have become.

Three recommendations to develop a thicker skin:

  1. Think of “constructive feedback,” as just that, positive feedback.  Think of it like you are worthy of the person’s time, who is providing their recommendations.  People don’t take the time to make recommendations if they don’t care about you.  This also fosters a you-and-me vibe instead of a you-versus-me vibe.  This is the building of a winning team.  The person being coached should not dwell on the feedback but rather grow and learn from it.  It’s all good!
  2. Throughout our lives we have all experienced being denied something that we wanted or felt we deserved badly…disappointing.  Stop thinking about everything you didn’t win or achieve rather think about what you gained instead.  Remember a little rejection will not kill you.  Rather it will make you tougher and helps build greater confidence.
  3. Dealing with negative feedback is not always easy and can bring us down.  Instead of showing that you are upset or put off, decide not to show you care about the person’s negative delivery.  By doing this, you take the power away from the negative person’s approach and maintain control over your own decisions and growth path.

Everyone is not good at coaching or providing constructive feedback.  Realize that even when someone is not a good communicator, their message or recommendation may be what you need to get ahead in your career.  My recommendation is to grow a thicker skin, see the positive in the experience and move on.

Please share your experience in dealing with positive or negative feedback and what that impact had on your mental health.

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