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What to Do if You Get a Negative Reaction from Constructive Feedback

Do you sometimes hesitate to have constructive feedback conversations because you think you might get a negative reaction from the other person? I think this is pretty common because most of us don't enjoy conflict. As a result, we often don't have these important interactions. But they are essential in helping others learn and grow.

If you have a foundation of trust, have provided balanced feedback, and use the BEAN model (check out last week's blog), chances are that things will go well. However, despite our best efforts, sometimes deflection can occur. Some of the deflection traps that you may run into are listed below.

Deflection Traps


I’m a top expert in my job. I know more about this job than most people. Doesn’t that count for something?


I want to get along with people, so the important thing is to just listen, nod and smile. You don’t expect me to take action, do you?


It’s not my fault, too many elements are out of my control. Would you like to hear who and what is really to blame?


You have the facts wrong. I need to set you straight.


You’ve always given me positive feedback in the past. Now you suddenly think I should improve?


Are you out to get me or to cover your own actions? I might need to improve something, but you are ten times worse.

What Can You Do to Deal with Deflection?

To deal with deflection, push the pause button on the conversation and deal with the reaction in a curious, compassionate, and detached way. If you start getting caught up in the deflection and argue or get angry, the conversation will likely spin out of control.

Here are some suggestions to consider:

  • Pause and breathe to keep your cool.

  • Listen to what the other person is sharing and ask some open-ended questions for clarification.

  • After you have listened to their concerns, redirect them to the issue at hand.

  • Focus on working together to find solutions instead of focusing on where to assign blame.

  • Ask how you can help or support them going forward.

  • If things aren't progressing, you may need to end the conversation and regroup a day or two later - but don't let it drop.

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