Part of being an adult in the modern workforce is listening to people tell you what you're doing wrong, even when they’re incorrect. When faced with difficult conversations, most grownups have mastered the art of staring out into space and nodding their heads silently while people fire off a list of complaints that may or may not be true.
While it's human to disengage when someone is griping about you, it's not particularly healthy or constructive. There are tried and true ways to disagree with feedback without being disagreeable or rude.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Sheila Heen and Debbie Goldstein write that the best response to feedback is to do nothing. Our brains are wired to listen to words and figure out if we agree with what's been said. What if you trained the brain to react differently? The authors suggest that you give yourself time to understand the feedback before you accept or reject it. So, take a walk or simply step out of the conversation and give your mind some space and time to process the feedback that's been offered.
You're probably not a qualified lawyer and even if you are, most people don't thoughtfully object to feedback in the heat of the moment. Make sure you follow the first tip and do nothing. However, if you continue to disagree with feedback after you've had some time to think, choose your words wisely. You can decline to change your behaviors and still behave in a manner that shows respect for the overall relationship.
Ultimately, you're a working adult who needs a paycheck. If someone comes into your office with reasonable feedback and tells you to change your behaviors, you should probably give that person the time of day. Nobody is trying to make your life worse. Even if you disagree, what's the worst that can happen? You prove someone wrong, and you look like a good sport. Show yourself and your colleagues that you're big enough to hear feedback without picking petty fights.
Find Another Direction.
People can get lost in the weeds of feedback. If you disagree with someone and it's too painful to give their ideas a whirl, it's incumbent on you to find a new way forward. Maybe you compromise. Maybe you call on someone to help you find middle ground so both parties feel their needs are being addressed. But if you wholeheartedly disagree with feedback that's been given by a colleague or supervisor, you shouldn't let that resentment fester. Speak with someone outside of the relationship who can help you take another direction to achieve resolution.
Don't Let Feedback Define You.
Our brains process millions of points of data each day. One negative piece of feedback doesn't determine the trajectory of your life. If you disagree with feedback, your brain and your heart are strong enough to endure the experience without too much damage.
My best advice is the simplest advice: Nod, smile and thank them for the opportunity to grow and develop. Then get back to work and do your job with integrity. You're unstoppable and unflappable if you keep an open mind and your heart is in the right place.
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Want to up your employee feedback game? Get in the feedback loop with the Saba Feedback Toolkit, including our feedback guide ebook, a great webinar on 1:1 meetings and our feedback and coaching templates.