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Handling Feedback With Humor

Everybody appreciates feedback, when it's solicited. And is hurt at times, when it's unsolicited.


Feedback is delivered in multiple formats; reviews, constructive criticism, updates and casual commentary. It can be provided by colleagues, family, friends and people in your network. And while there's the occasional insensitive or obnoxious remark, most feedback is delivered with positive intent to help you improve your actions and outcomes.

Photo: Wix Media


But whether it's praise or criticism, feedback elicits emotion. And it's often challenging to accept feedback that implies you're less than perfect. While these learning moments are designed to help you grow and improve yourself and your craft, you may need time to process the feedback you receive and how you'll apply it moving forward. Though feedback does elicit emotions, it's helpful to contain your reaction and letting unharnessed emotions show. After all, this is personal. Lashing out, challenging opinions, retaliating with harsh words, or even letting your facial expressions broadcast your dissatisfaction, could offend the other party. While it may feel good in the moment, you may find it instructive to consider the potential negative outcomes from such actions. Relationships could be strained, career opportunities could be lost, and your reputation could be severely damaged. Still, it's human nature to at least show a response in the moment. And one of the best ways to respond and release your emotional jolt is through humor. Start with a chuckle and a smile. How is that possible? Speak to yourself. Remind yourself that “criticism is ridiculously funny.” It has been popularized and cemented in the minds of many people as constructive even though, in fact, it is not. The critics have bought into a lie, a joke that has been played on them. So, when we put the act of criticizing others in proper perspective, it is funny to observe critics take being critical seriously.


Taking a positive and light-hearted approach to feedback disarms the other party, lightens the mood, demonstrates your ability to stay in control of your emotions, and exhibits poise, self-confidence and professionalism. Humor also helps temper your fight-or-flight response by lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, and restoring your rhythmic breathing and logical thinking. Humor doesn't mean that you aren't taking their feedback seriously. Just the opposite. It demonstrates your appreciation for them. It's evidenced by the fact that you're not willing to challenge them in the moment, but would rather have them exit the conversation with a smile on their face. And to ensure that your response isn't seen as flippant or disrespectful, always start with gratitude. Thank them for their feedback, let them know that you value their opinion and that they are heard. If you need further clarity, ask questions and listen to what they may have to say. Then let them know that you will indeed think about all that's been said and apply what you've learned.


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