Tag Archives: feedback

Dealing with negative feedback

When you receive negative feedback, it can be hard to embrace it and process it skillfully so it benefits you. Some do amount to useless criticism that just tears you down, rather than help you identify blind spots and bolster your strengths.  But you can’t grow, be your best self, and reach your highest potential unless you’re willing to accept constructive feedback and recognize its worth.

Here are ways to deal effectively with negative feedback:

Realize opinions are not universal truths. Feedback reflects the giver’s opinion of you, your work and your performance. It has more to do with their expectations, likes and dislikes, perceptions of what should be, and how the world works.

When a person responds negatively to what you offer, it doesn’t mean others feel or think the same way. How you do things will please some people, but not everyone. Stay attuned especially to common themes that permeate different people’s feedback.

You can choose to make changes and tweaks based on other’s opinions that resonate with you, without considering them as universal truth. Or you can maintain your behavior, but switch to a more suitable environment (such as taking on a new role, becoming self-employed, or focusing on another target audience.) You get to choose when to incorporate advice and when to ignore it.

Receive the information without judgment.  Negative feedback can lead to feelings of anger, hurt, shame, and inadequacy. It’s tempting to stop listening or internally block out the information, take a defensive stance, or engage in counter-attacks to get rid of such feelings.

To truly benefit from feedback, however, you need to listen to it without judgement. Pause. Breathe. Stay curious. Ask questions. Refrain from agreeing or disagreeing right away. Even admit that the feedback is hard to hear. Simply allow your feelings to come and go, instead of fusing with them or giving in to the impulse to fix them.

Take time to process the information – even a day or more – before you give a response (if one is necessary or appropriate). Trusting your instincts is a good thing, but gut reactions or half-baked replies can get you in trouble as well. Giving an immediate rebuttal comes across as defensive, so it’s better to explain the challenges later to clear up misconceptions and address unfair criticism. Reflecting on the feedback allows you to create a workable plan of action.

Distinguish between feedback and criticism.  Consider the source. Some people really have your well being in mind and want to help you. Others just like to focus on the negatives without offering any tips or insights on how to improve. You don’t have to put up with or respond to insults, character assassinations, and name calling that are pure criticism and offer no constructive feedback. Stand up to bullies and ignore inflammatory, baseless comments that serve no real purpose.

Feedback is calmer, clearer and more specific than criticism. It encourages a dialogue on the benefits of change, rather than force change as the be-all and end-all.  It allows you to tackle key areas, rather than overgeneralize your mishaps and exaggerate your shortcomings.

Separate the content of the feedback from how it’s given. Providing an honest opinion is often uncomfortable. Not everyone is trained, skilled or experienced in giving feedback. And their approach to delivering feedback is usually the way they like to receive it, which might not match your preference. Assume people giving feedback have good intentions and thank them for making time to provide it.

Feedback that is carefully packaged and overly positive doesn’t do much besides feed your ego and tell you what you generally already know. Meanwhile, feedback that is delivered poorly can offer valuable truth and unique insights, even when it seems harsh and unduly negative. Be grateful for comments that help you break through to the next level, regardless of whether they feel good in the moment.

Don’t allow negative feedback to keep you stuck. The ability to receive and process feedback leads to greater self-awareness that boosts your performance – not self-consciousness that stops you in your tracks. Use feedback to empower you and steer you toward action, not cripple you and stifle your efforts.

Take negative feedback as an opportunity to build your resilience, increase your endurance, and enhance your self-reflection and understanding of others. The fact that someone gave you feedback means you’re making an impact rather than staying on the sidelines.


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Photo by: Emanuele Toscano


How to deal with judgment

Dealing with judgment is a welcome skill in any creative endeavor that you wish to share with others. Some know how to tune out criticism and do only what works for them. Some know how to tolerate negative feedback and even incorporate it into their work. And some know how to seek out, embrace and thrive from judgment, without losing sight of their own vision or ignoring their personal intuition. (They are usually the most creative, productive and persistent in their efforts.)

If your creative endeavor is just for your personal benefit, you don’t need buy-in from others. But if you’re looking to build a viable livelihood around it, your ability to earn positive responses and learn from negative reactions becomes critical.

Those who don’t know how to deal with criticism might not pursue potentially rewarding projects simply because it carries the risk of failure and thus, judgment from others.

The fact is, not everyone will like you, like what you have to say, or like what you have to offer. If you allow fear of judgment to dictate your actions, you will tend to stick with the tried and true instead of bring your unique, untested ideas into the market. The more skilled you are at welcoming judgment, the more fun you can have with the creative process.

Judgment, when processed effectively, can help you tweak, improve and revitalize your idea, approach, product or invention to better serve your target audience. When someone delivers judgment, see if there are ways you can use it in your creative process.

Really tune in to what the person is saying and look at your creation from their perspective. Learn to separate yourself from your ideas and your work (at least while you are receiving feedback) and refrain from getting defensive. Set your boundaries. Take a deep breath and allow yourself to cool off instead of lash out at negative feedback.

On the flip side, be aware that not all feedback is valid or useful in your creative process, especially when it comes from tyrants, status quo protectors, and energy vampires:

Tyrants are those who deliver criticism that dilutes your sense of self-worth and discounts the value you bring. They fear competition and are most concerned with their own power, status and achievements.

Their feedback often comes in the form of personal attacks and degrading comments that are meant to downplay your efforts and convince you of their intellectual dominance or creative superiority. You tend to feel unworthy and inferior after receiving feedback from a tyrant.

Status quo protectors are those who deliver criticism that protects the way things have been done. They seek to preserve the status quo because their livelihood, reputation or success depends on it.

Their feedback usually comes in the form of opinions about why the tried-and-true approach is the better way to go. You tend to feel scared and cautious after receiving feedback from a status quo protector.

Energy vampires are those who deliver criticism that encourages you to be overly negative or extra skeptical about your endeavors. Often suffering from insecurity and paranoia, they suck the energy out of you to build up their own reserves.

Their feedback usually comes in the form of worst-case scenarios and doomsday projections about why your approach would never work. You tend to feel drained and depressed after receiving feedback from an energy vampire.

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As the recipient of feedback, you are best served when you can decipher valid comments that add value from destructive comments that offer no value.

Don’t allow tyrants to bully you, status quo protectors to derail you, or energy vampires to suck the life out of you.

As you stay open to criticism, be sure to maintain your center and keep your sense of leadership.  Use feedback to guide you in your creative endeavors, but never let it dominate you, override your own unique vision or stamp out your personal insight.


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Photo by: Jon Jordan