Podcast Episode 31: How To Handle Annoying Co-Workers and Negative Feedback

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In this Listener Q&A episode I’m answering your top questions on: 

  • How to move forward after getting negative feedback
  • What to do about your co-worker who is always butting in?

We want to get to a place where we are not at the mercy of others’ opinions, with emotional highs and lows, but that we can pause, separate the story from fact and decide how we want to grow from the facts. Opinions aren’t facts. 

Read the Script
Hey everyone, welcome back to The Career Refresh Podcast. I’m your host Jill Griffin. 

I am just back from a week long intensive with my coach and a few other CEOs and I am on fire for what’s possible for the rest of this year. 

Talk about the retreat

I wanted to dig in today on two listener questions. Many of you have written in to ask similar questions. The amazing thing about coaching is that you can benefit from and find a few key take -away that you can apply to a similar or a future situation. 

Let’s jump in. 

This first question is How do I take in and process critical feedback? Often there’s some validity to it but other times I don’t agree as the situation is nuanced. Sometimes it’s hard to hear. How do I stay open so I can grow but at the same time ignore what’s not helpful or true? How do I manage not getting defensive? 

This is such a great overall question. Let me take one question at a time. 

The first part of the listener question is, How do I take in and process critical feedback? At the simplest level, I find that writing down the EXACT words someone said, or if it’s a review and you have it in writing, look at the facts. That’s what I mean by the exact words. 
What do you feel about the feedback? 

Write down your thoughts. Some thoughts may generate negative feelings, sadness, anger, defensiveness, and it’s important that you allow yourself to pause and feel those negative emotions. Feelings are just neurochemicals pulsating throughout your body and if you give the sensations a little attention they will dissipate. They may swell up again but over time the feelings and the sensations reduce. If you don’t process the emotion it’s going to come out somewhere else… Overeating, overdrinking, too much social media, shopping, or other vice of choice. When we over consume we are doing it to either numb a feeling in hopes that the act will create another thought or feeling. But it’s a temporary fix. Over time it’s diminishing returns. 

The reason it’s hard to hear feedback is because of our thoughts. 
When we are defensive it’s hard to move forward productively. 

One of my favorite – – and perhaps most annoying questions– is what are you making it mean?  What are you making the feedback mean? 

It can be useful to listen to and marinate on the feedback, while asking yourself if you can find any truth or agreeable points in the feedback. Again write down the thoughts you have and notice how each thought makes you feel. Notice what you do when you feel that way. That’s the fastest way to see the results you are creating. 

Instead of asking how can I stay open to the feedback, a juicier question could be, how come I am triggered or bothered by this feedback?

If the feedback bothers you, you know you have work to do. Often when we are triggered by feedback it’s because there’s either a little bit of shame–which is about the unwanted identity. It’s seeing how others see you which can be triggering. Or it may be because there’s a little part of you that believes what they said was true and you don’t like that realization. 

Your work is to work on your thoughts and manage them. Please  realize that someone else’s opinion of you – whether positive or negative – is really about them. 

We can’t take the compliments and allow ourselves to feel better about ourselves and then when it’s a negative comment expect our brains to toss and disregard the thought. It doesn’t work

We want to get to a place where we are not at the mercy of others’ opinions, with emotional highs and lows, but that we can pause, separate the story from fact and decide how we want to grow from the facts. Opinions aren’t facts. 

Once you separate story and facts, write down your thoughts and find more neutral thoughts that you can believe today. 

Examples on how to neutralize and create new thoughts could be to start your sentences with any of these phrases
Someday I will believe . . .
I’m working on believing . . .
I’m open to the possibility of . . .
I keep thinking XYZ…and that’s ok. 

Practice these thoughts until you really believe them. Keep working on believing the thoughts until they become a straight up, I believe. 

What you think of you is the most important skill to build in order to have sovereignty of self. 

Ok, let’s go on to the second question. My co-worker, I’ll call Connie, always has something to say about my work, my deliverables and my projects. It’s so effing annoying. She’s not really adding value, she’s not saying anything new or different. She’s also not talking to me or engaging with me but rather with our ELT. It’s like she wants everyone to know that she’s smart and engaged. She always has to put her two cents in. Then my boss will engage in the dialogue and they will start talking about the project and I’m like hello? I am still in the room (ok, zoom) I want to speak up but I feel like I can’t get in there. So I kinda end up sitting there looking like a fool on the Zoom, and waiting for them to stop so I can continue with presenting my POV. It’s always swirls and then we run out of time. I feel like I can never move forward. How do I deal with Connie the Commenter? 

Ok this is a basic other people’s opinion questions. I did a full podcast on one angle of this topic. Check out Episode #20 titled what to do about other people’s opinions. 

if you’ve been listening for a while you know that I work on mindset and method. First we need to manage our minds, then from a managed mind we get into action. 

You have a lot of thoughts here about Connie the commenter. Let’s look at a few of them. 

She always has something to say about my work, my deliverables and my projects. 
She’s also not talking to me or engaging with me but rather with our ELT. 
She wants everyone to know that she’s smart
Then you said about yourself
I feel like a fool
I feel like I can’t get in there.
I feel like I can never move forward.

You have to separate story from fact. 

The facts are, she makes comments. Your boss engages. You don’t speak. You don’t move forward. Those are the facts. 

Everything else is just you interpreting the situation through a negative lens. And it’s not going to help you up-level and polish your executive presence when you are coming from this mindset. 

The facts don’t cause your thoughts. You cause your thoughts. 

The first question I have for you, and I am guessing I know the answers is how do you feel about these thoughts? Do you like them? Are they helpful to you?  

Once you have that answer you are able to see what your thoughts are doing to your mindset. 

What if she’s just really curious? What if she keeps expecting you to engage and wants a robust discussion to up-level the work? 

One of the reasons why I dig in deep on strengths based coaching in my work is that when we look at strengths we also look at blindspots. 

Think of a blindspot as when your strength gets in the way of your success. 

For example, what if this colleague ranks really high on the CliftonStrengths assessment as strategic. 

A common blind spot of strategic is because someone evaluates patterns and pathways so quickly, others might find it difficult to follow or understand the thought process.

She could actually be working into her blindspot because she knows that in order to solve strategic challenges we have to get others on board. 

Maybe she’s not trying to be “smart” but that her brain works fast and strategically and she’s seeking alignment with all on the call. 

If you think about it this way, if you think the best about her, what would be different for you? How would you rethink this? 

If she was your office BFF would you be thinking about this in the same way?

You want to change her. Her behavior isn’t right or wrong. 

You think that she should be behaved differently than how she currently does. It’s this thought that is causing your discomfort. You have an expectation of how she should behave and that is handing over the power of how you are going to feel to someone else. 

The freedom from this situation lies in taking responsibility for our own thoughts and creating your own rules for how you want to behave. Controlling our behavior is challenging enough, but trying to
control other people is inevitably frustrating for both parties and ultimately ineffective.

So what could you do instead? I want you to think about the result you want to create. This is 100% you. You can’t say, I want them to let me speak or not jump in. A result could be I want to convey my POV succinctly. Then I want you to think about how you need to be feeling in order to do that? Confident? Focused? And then I want you to think about what you need to think in order to create the feeling of confidence. Something like, I am prepared. Or I am resourceful. 

You may also want to practice, and I mean practice some common responses without defensiveness, drama, frustration, or victimhood so that you can tap into them if needed. 

Thank you for asking that question Connie..I think we should blah
That is a great point Connie and I have a suggested solution
The two of you have added some great insight here and I will be sure to add it to the next version. 

Lastly, in the case that someone does ask you a question you are not prepared for, ask a clarifying question. This will give your brain time to think and get out of the FREEZE which will then disempower you. 

Interesting question connie, can you give me more context?
Great point connie, how do you see that playing out?

And lastly, if you really have no clue you could go one of two ways. I think we are aligned connie but I’d like to check a few of the inputs after this meeting and get back to you
Great point, I’m not certain but I know where to find the answer. I’ll get back to you. 

You can be confident even if you dont know all the answers. It’s not a problem. We like to work with authentic people, not those who are full of it and I have found that using the responses above always works in your favor in being trust and alignment. 

Already everybody, keep the questions coming and I will follow up on another episode with answers. 

Have a great week. See you next time.

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