01/10/2017 02:13 EST | Updated 01/10/2017 02:18 EST

Secrets To Staying Calm When You Receive Unexpected Feedback

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I was given some feedback about my participation in a closed Facebook group that felt somewhat harsh at first. Now, I want to point out that I deeply respect and admire the person who was telling me this. If it had been someone who I didn't respect, I might not have taken any notice of his comment.

But when he brought it up, I felt guilty wondering if I had done something wrong. (Probably because he was so apologetic for bringing it up when he told me, which made it sound worse than it was.)

What is funny is that it was such a small thing, and he just wanted to nip it in the bud. I'll tell you the story below.

Simple feedback can be a trigger that causes you to become defensive.

As I reflect on the outcome of our exchange, I appreciate him bringing it up because it got me thinking about how I used to avoid feedback and would be extremely embarrassed if anything personal was brought to my attention.

For some of us, when we are receiving feedback, it can put us in a state of panic. If you tend to be an anxious person, such as I once was, it is very easy to go to a dark place that makes you feel bad. But actually, over the years, I have learned to not only accept feedback, but welcome it. Let me tell you what I do.

1. Decide if it is feedback or a criticism of your character

My experience is that most of the time, when someone tells us something, it is feedback and not a direct attack. If you have experienced bullying or extreme criticism in your life, simple feedback can be a trigger that causes you to become defensive.

Being self-aware is essential to master your emotions and improves how people will perceive you. Being aware of strong emotions such as fear, obligation or guilt is imperative. (Check out why those three emotions matter here)


  • "Is this person calling my character into question or using insulting language?"
  • "Do they habitually suffer from complaining disease?" If so, listen for elements that do apply to you.
  • "Is this information I was simply missing?" If so, thank them for bringing it to your attention.

2. Evaluate both your needs

We need to figure out what needs they are expressing. Then we need to compare them to how our needs will be met or what we will be losing if we change something due to this person's remarks.

Although it can be very difficult to avoid being swept up by our emotions, it is extremely important to take a deep breath and use our critical thinking to remain as unbiased and objective as possible.


  • "What does this person need and what do I need?"
  • "What will I lose if I implement this person's feedback?"
  • "What could I gain?"

3. Review the details

This person may simply not be aware or may have forgotten something. It is easy to make assumptions on both parts. Without becoming defensive, staying calm and explaining why we have done something is usually all that has to happen to have both people gain a better understanding of the situation. But the next step is equally important, which is asking the person for clarification of what they hope you will do in the future. This leaves both people feeling heard and respected.


  • "Are they aware of what triggered your behavior?" If not, tell them.
  • "What do they need from you to feel good about your future behaviours?"

We always hope that they will react to the feedback with openness and a desire to change.

What really happened?

As it turns out, my experience was a very simple and quick interaction that proved extremely useful in the long run. Having been in another of this person's Facebook group where the interactions are different, he was telling me that he does less one-on-one. This group is meant for people to interact more within the group whereas I had posted something, tagging him to comment.

My behaviors could have caused other people to ask him questions more directly, which in this group would have been inappropriate. (His needs). His encouragement for me to reach out even more to others within the group helped move my goals along even faster. First of all I didn't have to wait for him to respond and secondly, there is a great deal of richness in this community. (My needs.)

Whether we are asking someone to alter their behavior or telling them they have body odour and need a shower, we always hope that they will react to the feedback with openness and a desire to change. Obviously, we need to be sensitive and preface certain feedback with a disclaimer that this might become uncomfortable.

That being said, the best way to encourage others to be open to feedback is to model welcoming feedback ourselves.

I'd love to hear from you. What do you think of feedback? Do you welcome it or does it make you cringe?

Monique Caissie's strategies to empower others to stand up and take control of their personal and professional lives are appreciated by all who meet her. Drawing from her background in crisis intervention and as a mental health worker, she can assist organizations and individuals to improve relationships through her keynotes, strategic work sessions and private mentoring. If you haven't received her free four-step script on "How to Ask For What You Want", just click here.

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