How do you react when a client gives you negative feedback? Unexpected criticism can trigger fear, anger or shame. So, you should be prepared to manage your emotions and show appreciation when clients express their concerns.

Never dismiss negative feedback, says Rosemary Smyth, founder of Rosemary Smyth and Associates in Victoria. Say, “Thank you,” if feedback is positive, Smyth says. And say, “Thank you for letting me know,” if the comment is negative.

Smyth offers the following five tips to help you pull value from client feedback:

1. Let your clients speak without disruption
Don’t interrupt your clients, Smyth says, even if it seems they’re taking too long to get to the point. You may be tempted to immediately start quizzing them on what went wrong. Instead, give your clients the opportunity to provide their full point of view and finish telling their story.

2. Practice active listening
Listen to your clients while they speak, and reinforce their concerns by paraphrasing key issues. People have a tendency to dance around important topics, Smyth says. Summarizing feedback lets you fully grasp the issue at hand.

Another way to show that you’re actively listening is to ask clarifying questions. For example, Smyth says, if a client complains that your latest client-appreciation event was too crowed, clarify their concerns by asking, “Are you saying that you would like an event that’s smaller and more intimate?”

3. Seek out solutions
Encourage clients to suggest how you can serve them better. For example, if a client complains that your latest client event was too far away, ask which venues they would prefer. However, don’t put too much pressure on your clients, Smyth adds. Give them time to come up with helpful solutions.

4. Explain your next steps
Clients want to feel that their concerns are being heard, so you should inform them about the way you’ll resolve their problem, Smyth says. For example, if you recently held an event that wasn’t wheelchair accessible, tell them that you’ll ensure the next venue meets the accessibility needs of all of your clients’ friends and family members.

5. Don’t make excuses
We often have a knee-jerk reaction to blame someone else or make excuses when called on a mistake, Smyth says. For example, if your client received an event invitation on short notice, you might be tempted to say, “My assistant was on holidays, so that’s why the invitations went out late.” Show integrity and responsibility by taking ownership of your mistakes.