Everything communicates – everything you are, do and say, to what you pay attention, and the way you react to others. Receive compliments in a way that impacts how others perceive themselves – essentially by saying, “Thank you” with your words and actions. React to bad news about yourself or others by appreciating it in a way that encourages those messengers to give you more of it in the prompt, straightforward and unvarnished way you want it delivered.
Long ago in a galaxy far away someone suggested the best way to respond to a compliment was by saying “Thank you.” He urged us to accept compliments as the fully formed gifts they are meant to be. There is no need to build on them, defer them, or deny them.
Last year someone complimented me on something I wrote. I replied, “I’m not sure it was that good.” She jumped all over me, saying “Don’t ever say that again. It makes aspiring writers lose faith in themselves.”
Receiving Bad News
A woman walked into my office unannounced, closed the door, and sat down. She was visibly upset. So, I waited. She told me about something someone else was doing that made it hard for her to do her job. My immediate thought was about how to make this lady glad she had shared this with me by the time she left my office. I probed for understanding and then suggested a plan of action that I could take to correct the situation without letting anyone know she’d said anything to me. She left pleased. The plan worked.
One man asked for some honest feedback in a meeting. One of his subordinates gave it to him. The boss said nothing in the meeting. But, as soon as the meeting was over, he called the subordinate into his office and berated him about a completely different subject. The subordinate suggested the boss was mad about his feedback in the meeting. The boss, of course, insisted the two things were completely unrelated.
BRAVE approach to receiving news
The BRAVE questions can guide your response to good and bad news.
Environment – Where to play
Sometimes you can choose the physical location in which you’re going to receive news. If you can, choose a place that is safe and conducive to a conversation. If you have to react to news on the spot, you can still choose your emotional state. You can’t control events. But you can control your reaction to events.
Values – What matters and why
Your first thought should be to consider what matters and why to the person giving you the news. Then think about the impact you want to have on them and the effect you want that impact to have. I did this well in the example above of the person giving me bad news. And I did this poorly in the example of the person paying me a compliment. Consider how you want them to feel.
Attitude – How to win
With the win defined as how you want the person delivering the news to feel, you’re ready to make choices to guide what you do and say. Pause for a moment to think before you talk. The pause itself communicates that you’re thinking about what they said.
Relationships – How to connect
Now you’re ready to react and say the words that make them feel the way you want them to feel.
Behaviors – What impact
Words are just the first step. You have to put your words into action. Do what you promise to do to help them. Make the changes in your own behaviors they suggest. Then thank them for their feedback – whether it was positive or negative.
For bonus points, check back with them later. Reinforce how valuable you found their feedback or suggestions – the impact they made. Tell them what you’ve done with their gift – the effect of that impact. Invite them to give you more news going forward – good and bad.