How do we really feel about constructive feedback?

I thought I had this constructive feedback thing in the bag:

  • Don’t take it personally
  • Use this as key learning and insights to improve
  • Grow from the experience etc etc

Well all my teaching and advice nearly went out the window two weeks ago……for me constructive felt like destructive and it absolutely felt personal!!!

For a couple of years now I had a goal and vision for a new growth opportunity within our business. I took a few months off at the start of this year to work on this goal, pouring my heart into it. I felt really proud of the product and to date had really positive feedback that it was hitting the mark.

Then bam, I received a rather large, long, detailed email containing feedback on every facet of my product and how it didn’t meet this customers’ expectations.

I can honestly say the feeling I had reading this email was literally like someone punching me in the stomach. The gut-wrenching feeling was so strong I really felt close to being sick. Feeling gutted doesn’t come close how I was feeling. Now it doesn’t help that I am an over achiever who excepts nothing less than perfect. Though this really threw me. Even writing about it now two weeks later I still have butterflies remembering that feeling!!

So what did I do next?

Firstly, it took all the strength I had not to respond straight away and argue each point in the email, purely letting my emotions take over. My husband’s words of wisdom saved me this embarrassment.

I stepped away from the laptop and took some time to try and digest this information without letting emotion dominate. That didn’t work either, the feedback was not even what was mulling in my head at this point, instead it was:

  • I am hopeless
  • How did I think I could ever do this
  • I should just pack it in
  • What if I have tarnished our brand for our core business

So in other words, I was displaying destructive behaviours that were taken completely out of context. Once I realised what I was doing to myself, I went back and re read the email, and of course second time around still hurt, though I had missed so many valid and some positive points, and of course nowhere did it say I was hopeless.

I started to feel my mind shift after this, and decided to put myself in the customers shoes. This helped me to try and see things from the customers point of view, and I have to say I did start to see where I could make improvements using this feedback.

My husband and I took notes and discussed options, improvements, solutions for the rest of the evening. Only when we were feeling a little more rational about the situation did I respond. I kept the response short acknowledging the feedback and that we were looking to implement some improvements from this. I didn’t try to explain, validate or argue any points from my perspective. This really would have been detrimental to our business and professionalism.

I had terrible night’s sleep still thinking about this unhappy customer, though I was equally keen to get stuck in the next morning with implementing some of the improvements we had discussed.

I think it’s important to highlight at this point, that we reassessed again both the feedback and what we had discussed in terms of improvements. The reason being, this is one dissatisfied voice compared to the many positive. So if we were to be rash and make significant changes to our product because of one person, what is that going to do to all our satisfied customers?

Once we were happy with our list of small improvements, we implemented these and I have to say I felt really happy with the changes. The product was truer to our values, we were able to reassess who our market was and it generally felt like the product itself evolved overnight for the better.

Since then, we have received some amazing feedback, which has only helped me gain my confidence back and I am raring to go now!!!

As a perfectionist I am still gutted that we had a dissatisfied customer. When we received this “constructive” feedback, we could have done nothing, let it be personal and destructive. Though instead I am really so glad we went through the full process. I have learned a lot and it’s been a humbling reality check for me too.

Some summarised tips if you see yourself in this situation:

  • Step away and give yourself time to digest the feedback. What I have learned is it’s ok to feel upset and it might feel personal at this stage, it’s what you do next that will help.
  • Be aware of what emotions and behaviours are going on – try to keep this is the context of the feedback, and importantly recognise when it’s not
  • If there is someone you can mull this over with, it might help you
  • Put yourself in the other person’s shoes to get a different perspective
  • Only respond if necessary, and at a time when you are feeling more strategic or rational about the situation
  • Think about if any improvements are actually needed. So do your own validation checks from previous feedback
  • Use this constructive feedback as a line in the sand on when your product/piece of work/goal became stronger, because you were given the opportunity to reflect and revaluate the why, what, how, who and what it is all for process.
  • This in turn will help you grow and gain confidence from this experience.

I would love to hear your take on constructive feedback, and how it makes you feel. Is it helpful?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *