Recently, my team and I received negative feedback about one of our projects. In this blog, instead of talking about the content, circumstance, or validity of that feedback, I want to talk about how to receive feedback.
That uncomfortable feeling when you hear somebody criticise you or your work, however kindly they do it, can be difficult to handle. It feels like a slap in the face or a punch in the stomach (at least for me personally). While we are experiencing all those sensations in the body, it is impossible to look at the feedback objectively and to learn from it, potentially.
So how can we look at it objectively? First, we need to regulate ourselves. This can be done by introducing some kind of movement, such as going for a walk or taking slow deep breaths. Don’t be frustrated if you struggle to find this regulation–it might take a while. I would also suggest trying to get some distance from the aggravating situation, if you can, by setting it aside for even a day or two.
The next part of the work is to get clear on our boundaries. When holding workshops on boundary setting most people assume that boundaries are something we set against other people. However, in reality, we first need to set some inner boundaries:
– Most importantly, just like when receiving feedback, setting inner boundaries about how much we internalise others’ opinions about us. This is related to self-esteem and can be developed by increasing our self-esteem. You can increase your self-esteem with time and practice, by keeping your actions in line with your values, having integrity, and performing esteemed acts.
– Another type of internal boundary is known as containment in psychology. This refers to the capacity to internally manage troubling thoughts, feelings, and behaviour that may arise when being triggered. This basically means not relying on external sources to handle our shit.
Do you know the friend who needs to talk about their latest trouble for hours on as it is “their process?” Well, it is possible that this friend lacks boundaries, and all their insights, thoughts, and feelings just spill out onto anyone who listens due to the lack of containment. Talking about issues can bring great relief in most cases, but it is a good idea to check with the other person if they are available for the conversation, and also to give it a time frame so we are not taking advantage of our friends.
I would also like to flip this situation around: if you have been nodding away when reading the above, how do you contribute to that behaviour? Do you set boundaries or do you enable that friend’s behaviour? If you are an enabler, are you sure you are helping them by listening? What do you get out of enabling? Are you afraid of losing them if you rock the boat? Or is there no other way of connecting with your friends than by gossiping?
At some point, we all need to learn how to handle uncomfortable situations and how to process troubling thoughts or feelings (occasionally with some help). It is all part of growing up and becoming an emotionally mature person. Once we have the awareness, the process pretty much starts with setting internal and external boundaries. This means taking negative feedback without becoming defensive, knowing what’s ours and what belongs to others, not using our friends as therapists or coaches, and learning how to turn around and communicate when someone’s behaviour is not acceptable to us.
Here at Centrd Life, we host regular workshops offering actionable tools to help you set better boundaries. Keep your eyes here on our website for future dates, and be sure to follow us on Instagram @centrdlife for updates.