7 Questions That Lower Resistance to Negative Feedback

Great feedback often surprises recipients. They don’t see themselves clearly. Frankly, none of us do.

Your feedback was rejected. Now what?

Gut check:

If we open our hearts at all, it’s to people who care. If you don’t care, walls go up. 

Are you fully committed to the best interests of feedback recipients? Or do you have an ax to grind?

If you’re trying to be useful, press forward. But if self-interest motivates you, forget about it. You’re the issue.


I’m ashamed to say that sometimes I fall into the trap of defending my feedback. Recipients don’t like the message. They act defensively. So do I. It’s a black hole.

  1. Don’t let the person receiving feedback hijack the conversation. 
  2. Create an environment where vulnerability is an option. 
  3. Defensive reactions call for curious responses.

Responding to defensiveness:

  1. Manage the direction of the conversation.
  2. When you see defensiveness, practice vulnerability. “This conversation isn’t going as I hoped.”
  3. Declare positive intentions. “I’m trying to be helpful.”
  4. Don’t engage in a “yes you did – no I didn’t” conversation.


Respond with a question when facing resistance.

  1. What’s going on for you right now?
  2. Go through the senses. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What are you hearing? What are you seeing? Hitting their prefered way of thinking may help them open up.
  3. Imagine, if this feedback was true, what would you say next?
  4. Imagine, if this feedback was true, what would you ask?
  5. Explore intent vs. impact. What did you intend? What is the impact?
  6. When someone is resistant, what do they do?
  7. What’s at stake for you right now?


If the feedback was given in written form, ask them where they were when they read the feedback. How were you feeling when you read this? What was happening for you?

How might leaders respond to defensiveness to their feedback?

**Thanks to the internal coaches from All4 Inc. for their insights on this topic.