It can be stressful to hear negative criticism from your boss or coworkers, but if you tune it out automatically, you miss what could be an important gift, says Sam Chapman, CEO of Empower Public Relations in Chicago and the author of The No-Gossip Zone.
After a bout of bad gossip at the office, as well as other communication issues, Chapman embarked on a program of authentic communication, looking for better ways for him and his employees to deal with one another and have a great day. He turned to leadership coach Diana Chapman (no relation, he says, "just one of the universe's little jokes") to help him hone his transformational learning skills.
"I think the 'Have a great day' part is undervalued by CEOs around the country. It's definitely undervalued by employees," he says. People have been conditioned to work in unhealthy environments, focusing instead on whether they're getting paid enough and dealing with bad bosses along the way.
"I was sort of taking life too seriously," he says of himself as a boss. His coach said that he needed to learn how to play, and suggested that he sit down with his kids and let them direct his play for 15 minutes.
"It works great," he says, adding that he encourages everyone to let their kids lead them in play for at 15 minutes a day. "It’ll teach you how to limber up your joints, limber up your brain, and it’ll teach you what life is about."
Aside from relearning how to play, Chapman also learned to seek out the gifts inherent in negative feedback. Negative feedback is different from plain criticism or insults. While you can't glean much good from straight criticism or insults, "If you’re really curious and almost Gandhi-eque, you may ask them to recouch it, ask them to rework it to give you feedback instead," he suggests. Instead of going to "that ugly place," try to get them to go to that "I want something different from you place," he adds.
If they insist on being critical, "You can reject it and walk away," he says. "If they’re throwing feedback at you, you can accept it."
"No one has a bigger gift to give you than your arch enemy."
Here are four tips from The No-Gossip Zone for learning how turn negative feedback into something positive:
1.) Everyone has something valuable to say. By accepting (even just slightly) that everyone has something valuable that they can teach us about who we are, we open up to a realm of creativity, growth, and success that we never thought possible. This means accepting negative feedback with an open mind and discovering what it is that you need to improve about your performance.