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7 Steps to Overcome the Negative Feedback Spiral

Criticism is the worst. There, I said it. The people-pleaser in me wears a brave front, but inevitably, my inner overachiever starts bawling the second a boss or a supervisor says, “This isn’t quite good enough; I think you can do better; or [the kiss of death] this is disappointing.” Even worse is when the feedback isn’t articulated. For instance, when the article I thought was awesome didn’t end up as the feature story, or my genius idea never appeared at the company meeting. I can spend days wondering and beating myself up over why a particular piece or idea wasn’t good enough.

Because the only thing worse than critical feedback? No feedback at all.

No one is born an expert, yet, for many Type A overachievers like myself, comments such as, “This needs improvement,” instantly morph into a stream of self recriminations and self doubt that we are just not quite “enough.” It’s almost as bad as the sensation of not having any feedback to work from.

My manager recently gave me some food for thought. Good feedback, she said, should never come across as simply criticism, and it’s not personal. When we can detach our worth from the feedback we receive, we can embrace the opportunity to improve and be mindful of our growth areas.

Her words have helped me take an enormous step toward disassociating feedback from self worth.

For others struggling with the dreaded feedback loop, here are a few steps that are helping me find some peace in the process.

1. Schedule a time with your manager for her to provide feedback on a specific aspect of your work.

2. When receiving feedback, listen without getting defensive.

3. Ask follow-up questions until you know exactly what you need to work on and how to work on it.

4. Set goals and stick to them.

5. Thank your manager for the feedback.

6. Make the recommended changes.

7. Repeat.

Finally, remember that no one (except you) actually expects you to get everything right on the first try. Recognize your shortcomings, but also acknowledge your successes and growth. And keep going.

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