Taking negative feedback can be daunting and frustrating for both the person giving it and the person receiving it. Sometimes negative feedback is “on point” and other times it is way off base. I have received feedback about the size of my breast in an academic setting. I was annoyed and aghast at those comments. I thought what does that have to do with anything? Over the years I learned a few pearls which have helped me approach the feedback process with less angst.
- Be cautious of unsolicited feedback. Often times people who are not skilled, authorized or knowledgeable enough about the task at hand take it upon themselves to “give feedback” or “share their thoughts” about your actions and behaviors. This is extremely common in healthcare with random insinuations about how doing mundane tasks such as making their coffee in the morning “affects patient care” which by the way is the utmost way of “throwing shade” in the health care setting.
- Feedback is just that; feedback. You can choose to accept it or reject it. Note that feedback does not lay down the law unless you allow it. I personally keep an internal feedback system and consistently measure my current actions to my goals/ideals and I find mentors who can help me bridge the gap between my ideals and my reality. I focus on finding people I can trust to give me accurate, helpful and timely feedback. If I work with someone who gives me feedback, I always check the feedback received against my internal barometer which is mostly calibrated by my mentors in that setting and if the 2 are incoherent, I delete the feedback and move on. If the feedback is coherent, I make some changes, measure results and repeat that process until my ideals/goals become my reality.
- Untimely feedback is useless: Telling me I sucked over the past 6 weeks at the end of the rotation when I can’t change anything is useless. This can be frustrating because you feel powerless about not being able to effect any changes that may help you grow in that particular setting. What I do in this situation is examine the feedback to see if I can apply it in other settings or future rotations. If yes, I do so promptly. If no, I document it for future review and I move on.
- Giving feedback is a skill: In most settings, the people giving you feedback may not be skilled at it and it is important to give them feedback about how they themselves are doing with this process. Now don’t take this as your chance to “get back at them” or anything of the sort. Use it as an opportunity to pay it forward so that the next student or coworker has a better experience. Trust me, if you keep paying it forward eventually it comes back to you. It always warms my heart when I receive feedback from a prior evaluator who has taken the time to implement prior suggestions.
I hope these pearls help you deal with your next feedback session.