9 Ways to Handle Negative Feedback Without Getting Defensive

2. Surround yourself with people who aren’t intimidated to tell you the truth

You can find on-mission people who just don’t have the personality to tell you the truth.

They are great people, but you need to solicit an inner core of people who are not intimidated by you or overly impressed with you.

Usually, they are other leaders.

Feedback from people who are strong leaders in their own right is the best.

Leaders who surround themselves with other leaders become far better leaders.

3. Look for people who are aligned but honest

If you find strong, aligned leaders who give you feedback (that’s who I look for in elders for our church), you will never have ‘yes’ men or women around you.

Instead, you will have a team that shares your mission, vision and strategy and will tell the truth to help you get there.

Leaders who surround themselves with yes people ultimately say no to growth.

Leaders who surround themselves with unaligned people ultimately say yes to division and chaos.

Leaders who say yes to aligned, strong leaders always do best…and so does their organization.

Alignment is often the difference between criticism that leads somewhere great and criticism that leads nowhere good.

Here’s the outline of a talk I did a few years ago that offers more about alignment,

4. Don’t be defensive

This is difficult but so critical. Don’t offer excuses, reasons or get your back up.

Tell them why you needed to hear it.

Ask questions.

Dig deeper.

It signals to them you value what they say, and they will know they have not wasted their time.

5. Thank them

Seriously, thank every person who critiques you.

Even the negative ones (and realize you may have to leave your silent thoughts unspoken).

You can grow from everything.

Saying thank you for criticism is perhaps the biggest signal you can give that you want it and are open to it. Sure, you need boundaries if a critic is going after you, but thanking them for any potential insight signals humility and a willingness to learn.

For your best feedback people, gratitude is essential.

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Carey Nieuwhof
Speaker and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in Canada. With over 6 million downloads, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today's top leaders and cultural influencers. His most recent book is “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” Carey and his wife, Toni, reside near Barrie, Ontario and have two children.