What to Say in Any Tricky Situation
What not to say: "I disagree!" (This leads to an argument.) Or, "Thank you for your feedback, I'll try to do better next quarter." (The truth is, you're upset about the news and not grateful for it. Further, you don't know how to do better since you thought you were doing fine.)
What to say: "Wow, that's upsetting to hear." Or, "This is so far from how I see myself—or hope to be seen—that I'm a little speechless. I'd like to explain my perspective, but I first want to make sure that I really understand what you're saying." The goal is to buy yourself some time so that you can listen as your boss explains—in detail—how and why your performance has disappointed. "The better you understand feedback," write Harvard Law School lecturers Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen in their book Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, "the more likely you are to find something in it that is useful, or at the very least to understand the way in which you are being misunderstood, and why."