How Do You Effectively Manage Critical or Negative Feedback?  Weigh In with Your Tips and Lessons!

This question has to do with how we as court leaders respond to less than positive information about our performance.

Norman Meyer has written about “Breaking Through Verbal Communication Deadlocks” (see the October 2, 2018 posting on www.courtleader.net .In the article, guidelines were noted as being effective:  keeping eye contact, avoiding interruptions, really listening, using courtesy and suggested techniques that we as leaders can use to be better communicators (being clear, keeping focus, being non-judgmental and striving for flexibility).

Here is a practical question for you:  in spite of adhering to effective communication protocols, we are bound to experience less than positive feedback or information directed as us individually.  How do we as court leaders effectively manage, respond to, and utilize critical feedback, criticism, and negativity that are directed toward us?

Two recent publications caught my attention:  a USA Today article and the recent publication of the Harvard Business Review On Point.

In a USA Today article titled “Respect:  5 ways to project confidence, power,” it offered “5 pillars of speaking with authority and confidence:”

  • Maintain an erect back – remember the connection between posture and verbal communication
  • Keep fluid eye-to-eye contact – use eye contact that is relaxed and steady but demonstrates interest
  • Eliminate filters – watch for and avoid words and phrases that are fillers, and may cause distractions (“um,” “I mean,” “ you know”)
  • Pause periodically – use pauses when speaking and allow time for the listener/audience to absorb what you are saying
  • Slow your pace – consciously talk slower and remember that appropriate pacing will avoid nervousness or the listener to better comprehend what is being said.

In the Harvard Business Review On Point for Fall 2018, the focus was “The Right Way to Fight at Work.”  The publication is chock full of articles on managing yourself and managing others. It revealed information about finding the coaching in criticism, how to preempt team conflict, negotiating with a liar, and how to pick a good fight.  Some nuggets from the various articles that caught my eye include:

  • Remember to focus on shared goals and interests
  • Do not assume you fully understand your colleague’s perspective, and
  • Get a difficult conversation on track by avoiding blame, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling

In my own experience (especially in two prior employment situations), I used these three queries when discussing my performance, to avoid confrontation or the appearance of being defensive:

  1. What should I do more of? Or what should I start doing?
  2. What should I do less of? Or what should I stop doing?
  3. What should I do differently?

How do YOU effectively manage critical or negative feedback?


“Brunson, Paul C., “Respect: 5 ways to project confidence, power,” USA Today, Friday, September 14, 2018, page 5B.
“The Right Way to Fight at Work,” Harvard Business Review On Point – Selected Articles from HBR, Fall 2018.

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