How to Respond to Feedback You Disagree With (Without Sounding Defensive)
But, what if it’s bad feedback? What if someone offers a suggestion for improvement that you completely disagree with? In fact, you think that implementing that change would only serve to make your project that much worse.
There’s no denying that it can be a delicate situation to handle. On one hand, you don’t want to seem like you’re unwilling to accept criticism. But, on the other hand, you don’t want your project to suffer so that you can look like a team player.
So, what do you do? Here are three different strategies you can use when met with critique you disagree with.
1. Try it Anyway
I hate to rely on an old cliché, but we all know that old saying, “You never know until you try.” And, in some cases, it’s true.
If that piece of feedback is small enough and relatively quick and easy for you to implement, why not just test the waters and see how you like it? You might be surprised with the outcome.
What if you try it out and—as predicted—it’s not something you want to keep? Well, then you’re free to move forward with explaining why you don’t plan to incorporate that suggestion.
And, even better, you’ll be able to do so after making it obvious that you were willing to give that feedback some thoughtful consideration, rather than shooting it down immediately.
2. Ask Further Questions
Chances are, you’ll have an instant reaction when presented with a piece of feedback that you consider to be terrible. But, before rushing to snap judgments about what an awful idea it is, are you sure you understand that suggestion entirely?
It’s smart to ask a few follow-up questions to ensure that you have a solid grasp on what (and why) that idea is being proposed.
Why does this person think that change should be made? How does she suggest you do it? What evidence does she have that this would improve things?
Being receptive to feedback doesn’t always mean instantly accepting it at face value. So, go ahead and ask some additional questions (politely, of course) to confirm that you understand where this person is coming from—rather than rapidly shutting him or her down.
3. Graciously Decline
But, what about that feedback that’s just undeniably bad? You don’t even want to waste your time giving it a try or finding out more about it—you just know it won’t work.
In those cases, you can reject that suggestion in a way that’s polite, professional, and makes it obvious that you’re not just cringing at the first sight of criticism.
Start by thanking that person for his suggestion. Remember, he gave your project time and thought in order to be able to chime in, and that deserves some gratitude. Then, explain why you won’t be implementing his idea. The key here is to provide a real explanation, so he doesn’t feel like you’re just trying to sweep all of his ideas under the carpet.
Perhaps you thought of something similar to his suggestion previously, but found in your research process that it wasn’t practical. Or, maybe you have some hard facts or data about why you did things the way you did. Either way, make sure to explain your reasoning.
End your rejection by asking that person if he has any further questions or ideas to share. Doing so will make it obvious that you’re including him in the conversation—rather than standing on your soapbox with a “my way or the highway” attitude.
Responding to feedback can always be tricky. But, it becomes especially difficult when you don’t agree with the criticism being offered. Choose one of these three strategies, and you’ll be able to navigate those murky waters with poise, polish, and professionalism.
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