In academic life you get used to receiving feedback, including plenty of negative feedback when your grant proposal is declined by a funding agency or your manuscript is rejected by the editor of a journal. We are also subject to annual performance reviews which can be difficult if all of your proposals and manuscripts have been rejected. So, how should we respond to negative feedback?
The Roman philosopher, Marcus Aurelius is credited with the saying ‘Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact’, which perhaps implies we should not take the negative feedback too seriously, or at least we should look for some evidence.
Tasha Eurich has suggested we should mine it for insight and harness it for improvement but without incurring collateral damage to your self-confidence. He recommends a five-point approach, based on empirical evidence:
- Don’t rush to react
- Gather more evidence
- Find a harbinger
- Don’t be a lonely martyr but engage in dialogue
- Remember that change is not the only option; you can accept your weaknesses, share them and work around them.
If you are the one giving the negative feedback then it is worth remembering the stages of response to bad news are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Hopefully, the feedback will not induce the full range of response but, when it does, you should not be surprised.