How Not to be Negative with A Negative Feedback

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Let us face it. Feedback is hard to receive no matter how much we say we are open to “criticism.” It is an even more difficult task to give one. Instant feedback ranks the highest on the toughness scale.

A negative feedback brings a whole new level of discomfort which many of us are ill-equipped to deal with.

Performance appraisals are one thing. We are prepared for them. On the other hand, instant feedback, where there is an immediate step by step pointing of what wrong you are doing could be difficult to receive because everything is happening there and then. At the same time, you are expected to make corrections ASAP, as opposed to a performance appraisal which is more long term in its scope. And giving one is a dreaded task. One fears aggression, conflict, even tears.

So, what are some ways one can give or/and receive instant feedback, especially if it leans toward the negative?


  • Pause:

It is easy to get defensive when one hears something negative about a project one did so much dedication.

Actually listening, and not preparing responses to a negative feedback is a good idea. And to do that, taking a pause is essential.

Listen to what they have to say, and process the information.

Sometimes, when one looks back at the job, the mistakes pointed out are in fact, there.

  • Nothing Personal:

While listening to what others have to say about you, especially if it’s more on a negative side, it is a good idea to remember to not take things personally. There might be a problem with your work, but that doesn’t mean that the person has a problem with you.

Even if the person has a problem with you, it is never a bad idea to take a second look at your work. To make sure you aren’t being misled, the next point comes to rescue.

  • Know Thyself:

It is good to have conviction in oneself. It is good to feel that the work ones does is good enough. Confidence is essential. Self-awareness even more so. Being aware about one’s skills and capabilities is necessary. But it is also great to have enough confidence to take a second, third, fourth look at one’s work.

The same confidence and self-awareness could help you to pause and look back on your job when you receive feedback. They could be used to realise that even if you do receive a feedback that is negative, it wouldn’t be too difficult for you to understand your mistakes and make corrections. You would know when to make corrections.

Confidence and self-awareness can also help you, in case of a positive feedback to remain level-headed.



  • The Three Words:

Be honest, gentle and non-judgmental. As basic as it sounds, these are difficult stances to achieve.

Observe the steps in the process, and then point out the mistakes gently. Jumping to conclusions about someone’s work doesn’t go a long way.

The praise-criticise-praise approach works here. Adding these cushions is necessary to make sure the person receiving the feedback doesn’t lose confidence.

At the same time, it is also necessary to keep a certain honesty wherever needed. Partly to ensure quality, partly to communicate exactly what needs to be done but also because it is easy to see through when someone is sugar-coating too much.

  • Seriously, Nothing Personal:

As mentioned before it is important to remember while receiving feedback that there is nothing personal. It is even more so while giving one.

Make sure you are being as objective as you can while giving someone a feedback. It is necessary to keep aside office politics, personal biases, likes and dislikes.

You could dislike a person but still appreciate their work. You could be fond of someone but still be able to point out their mistakes.

  • Tell, Don’t Scold:

Tone and body language are important things that can add or remove warmth and comfort. Sometimes, it is not always the words but how they have been said that make a difference.

It is important to realise the difference between scolding and telling someone. Plus, it is a great idea to keep in mind that one is dealing with adults, and not kids, to make sure the tone is not patronising or belittling.

It is not possible to do away with feedback. What would happen to the quality then? Feedback is essential to progress, to make things better and learn. It is about all about the right way to give and receive.