Default Reactions

Default Reactions to Criticism

When we don’t know ourselves well, negative feedback can be surprising and even hurtful.  Leadership coach Deborah Riegel suggests that the key to learning from feedback is to recognize and stop some of our common default reactions. Click on the tiles to learn more about them.

Dread
We make up the worst possible stories about the feedback before it even happens. Days before the review, we feel nervous and imagine a range of scenarios where we get reprimanded or even fired. This fear stops us from concentrating on the feedback message.
Denial
When someone criticizes us, we either completely label the information as untrue or doubt the competence of the feedback giver. For instance, we might tell ourselves that this person is too young or too old to understand our approach.
Defensiveness
Often, people start to argue against criticism by explaining their actions and making excuses. While being defensive, people can perceive feedback as an attack on their character. They feel that feedback is a danger and they choose to fight against it.
Drama
Some might dramatize and get overly emotional during or after getting feedback, while others completely disengage, shut down emotionally, and stop listening. In extreme cases, a person can be so upset that they might simply walk out of the meeting.

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