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How to Respond When They Say Your Project Stinks


Someday you will receive negative feedback. You can sob your eyes out, exact revenge on whomever dares to speak negatively of your project, or you can learn from the feedback and respond gracefully and professionally. Here’s how.

Frustrated man at a desk

(Photo Credit: LaurMG/Wikimedia Commons)

You spend weeks on a presentation and the feedback you receive includes the words “boring” “ineffective” “doesn’t make sense” or, “this stinks”.  You have the option of replying with “Nuh uh” or you can take a look at the feedback for ways to improve your project.  According to The Harvard Business Review, there are actually benefits of negative feedback –“It is likely that negative feedback will be the most useful in further developing your idea”

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1.  Consider the Person Providing the Feedback

It is important to consider the feedback of everyone who is involved, but keep in mind that in all groups, some opinions may weigh heavier than others. Is this person an important part of the project? Are they genuinely interested in the project’s success? Or, is this person the real life equivalent of an Internet troll, who just scatters negative feedback for his or her own entertainment? While you should always look carefully at the feedback provided, in some cases, it is more productive to reply with a simple “thank you for your feedback”.

2.  Evaluate the Feedback

What is this person trying to tell you when he or she says your project stinks? Which parts of the project actually stink? Or is it the entire project? Ask the person providing the feedback to expound on his or her comments and then examine your project to determine how you can make improvements. If you are stuck, ask for suggestions.

3.  Discuss the Feedback with Others

In The Benefits of Negative Feedback, John Butman notes that feedback falls into three categories: praise, silence, and backlash (or negative). In discussing the negative feedback with others, group members who were initially in the praise and silence categories are forced to think and respond in more detail. When further discussed, it could go either way – those who first praised the project may change their minds and after it is pointed out to them, agree with the negative feedback. Or, those who were at first silent, may decide to speak up in order to defend the project.

In most cases, there is no reason to take the negative feedback personally. Also, remember that creating a fabulous rebuttal to negative feedback is less important than ending up with a project that doesn’t stink.

Tell Us What You Think

What was the worst feedback you have ever received? What are your tips for dealing with negative feedback? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Christina Majaski
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