This is the first post in my blog replay for 2011. This entry was originally posted on August 29, 2011.
Recently, I announced a big change in my ministry about an event that has been happening for many years. It was a change that I had been thinking and praying about for two years. I had literally hundreds of conversations about this shift with other leaders in ministry. The time was here. I made the change.
When the announcement came out, I decided to avoid my emails for a few hours just to focus on other things. Maybe I was just being chicken. Later that night, as I started to read through some of the emails, many were very supportive of the change. That made me feel good. I liked reading those emails. But I had some emails that were not supportive of the change. They weren’t attacking emails. They were merely not supportive. I didn’t like reading those emails. But this is where my internal battle began.
How do I, as a leader, respond to negative feedback? I was in a feisty mood that night already. As I read the emails, a lot of, shall we say, less then constructive thoughts floated through my mind. I certainly did not write those thoughts down. But it got me thinking about what would be the best way to respond. Here’s what I learned:
1. Never respond right away. Too much emotion was clouding my mind that would not have produced a well-written response. I needed to wait. So I slept on it.
2. Affirm the person. When I finally did respond the next day, the first line of the email was in affirmation of the passion that this individual showed in the email. This person was at least passionate enough to write a response to me. That’s saying something about this person! I wanted to affirm them for taking the time and sharing their thoughts with me.
3. Find areas of agreement. I did not disagree with this person’s thoughts completely. In fact, we were in agreement in some areas. I decided to point those out early on in my response back to this person. The hope is that this step will open the door to continued dialogue and understanding.
4. Share the your perspective. I believe I have a valid perspective in this situation. However, I believe that this person also has a valid perspective. This was an opportunity for me to share some of my thoughts and vision that could not be communicated in the initial announcement.
5. Don’t expect support. In the end, I let this person know that I did not expect my email to change their mind or all of a sudden have them become 100% supportive. That would be unrealistic.
The goal to responding to negative feedback is to not change their minds, but to keep the dialogue open. Dialogue with people who disagree with me are the times I learn the most.
How do you response to negative feedback?