How To Deal With Negative Feedback

dealing_with_negative_feedbackAs human beings, we are affected by the feedback we receive from those around us.  Whether good, bad or neutral, the words we hear and the tone in which they are seasoned, can have a powerful impact on how we feel about ourselves and how we see the world around us.  From the time we first take notice of this double edge we call the tongue, we are keenly aware of its sting as well as its ability to uplift the somber soul.

Feeling the sting of a verbal attack

I recently received an email from one of my websites that was anything but positive in nature.  I was basically told, by a total stranger that had just laid eyes on my site for the very first time, that I was a worthless piece of @#$%.  This person seemed to go to great lengths to tare me down as quickly and effectively as possible.  I had been having quite a tough week and this was just one more stone that had met its intended target.

I started to reply, trying to stay calm and not be a jerk right back, but I was having a hard time not getting defensive.  So I got Liz to read the email and asked her opinion.  The second she had finished reading the words of this viscous verbal assault, she looked at me and said, “Eric, why would you even give this person two seconds of your time?  Just delete it and move on.”  Realizing the foolishness of trying to defend myself to someone who had no intention of having a two way conversation, I deleted the email and tried my best to forget about it.

Later that day, while walking our dogs, Liz and I discussed the situation.  She admitted that it was easy for her to tell me to forget about it, but that if it had been directed at her, it most certainly would have bothered her, but that paying attention to that kind of feedback will do nothing but bring you down.  That absolutely NO GOOD could ever come from responding to the kind of hate that was in that email.  I agreed and I moved on.

The effect of feedback

I don’t know about you, but when I have a couple of days that are filled with nothing but positive reinforcement and encouragement, I can’t help but feel light on my feet.  I have more energy, get more done and tend to be a more positive person.  But this can easily be brought to a screeching halt if the right words are used.  Something like that email I described above can really take the wind out of my sales if I let it.  I like for people to like me and I enjoy sharing positive experiences, not baring the brunt of someone else’s bad day.  I want to help people when they are in need, not get stepped on when things don’t go their way.

There’s a saying, “Water off a duck’s back.”  This usually pertains to a situation where an individual is criticized, but not affected by it.  Somehow this person is able to let the negativity just roll right off their hypothetical back.  This is rare and often times falsely mentioned.  We are VERY effected by feedback from others and it is near impossible to completely disregard the different colored sound waves that find their way to our acute audible sensors. So let’s not kid ourselves.  We generally DO care what others think about us and both positive AND negative feedback will usually have at least SOME effect on us.  The question isn’t, “How can we ignore certain sound waves?”  But instead, “How can we properly channel the different tones that take aim at us?”  Just like certain martial arts may teach, it is better to go with the force of the attacking blow and use its energy to benefit yourself, than it is to try and fight it, or in many cases, try and ignore it.

How To Stop Letting People Make Or Break Your Life

So you’re like me in that your mindset, motivation and productivity are sometimes dictated by the feedback of the people around you.  You’re sick of working hard to build up momentum, only to be taken out at the knees by a barrage of negativity.

Let’s stop handing over the keys to other people’s opinions and bring stability to our personal perspective of ourselves.

Tip #1:  Determine the usefulness of the negative feedback.

As we all know, just because something is negative doesn’t mean it is wrong and/or can’t be turned into a positive.  When we first receive feedback that threatens to bring us down we need to ask ourselves if there is anything useful we can take from it.  Are we doing something wrong?  Can we learn from this to improve our tomorrow?  If there is merit to the comment and we can learn from it, we should determine the lesson, learn it and then go about our business.  But if it turns out to be a difference of opinion or just negativity for the sake of negativity, we must see it for what it is (someone esle’s problem) and move on.

Tip #2:  Beware of the dangerous Half-Truth

When others attempt to bring us down, they often do so by using the good old half-truth.  They throw in JUST enough truth to get us second guessing ourselves and then naturally becoming defensive.

Think about it.  When you have received negative feedback, was it the completely false statements that effected you most, or those that had a bit of truth sprinkled in with the lies?  When there is some truth involved, we naturally pay attention and often try and pick through the statement to figure out what exactly needs to be done.  We think, “Well, that one part is true and I KIND OF do that thing they pointed out, but the way they spin the idea is completely false.”

The problem with this is that we can find ourselves stuck in a pointless cycle of trying to reason out what may just be a bunch of false information that had no intention of constructively criticizing us.  We spin our wheels attempting to effectively determine a defense, when no defense is needed or even advisable.  This is often a complete waste of time.

So how do we deal with these deceivingly destructive accusations without lowering our standards and losing valuable time?

It’s quite simple, actually.  We just need to look at the ENTIRE statement and not just the individual points.  Let’s say you own a bakery and specialize in blueberry muffins.  One day the owner of the bakery across the street comes in and says,”You sell your muffins for less than I do.  (TRUTH)  From what I can tell, you’ve found a way to get the same ingredients for less than I can get them (TRUTH) and have come up with a way to make your muffins in half the time (TRUTH).  Way to go!  You’ve just brought down the standards of the muffin making industry!”  (FALSE)

OK, so this guy obviously had it in for you from the get go, but he DID lay down a bunch of truths.  Up until the very end, he was describing your actions with great detail.  But he then managed to spin those facts into one final false accusation.  Now you’re thinking, “Is it possible that my actions are wrong in some way?  Should I re-think the way I’m doing things?”

We need to realize that a statement is either true or false.  Their may be some truths and some lies mixed in, but the entire statement is saying something specific, and it is the point that it’s trying to make that is either true or false.  So if we were to look at this competitor’s statement as either true or false, we could clearly see it as false.  But fall into the trap of picking it apart and we only confuse ourselves with conflicting information.

Another trick is to remove the false parts of the statement and then repeat what’s left, but in a positive tone.  Let’s picture an appreciative customer who’s eating one of your delicious blueberry muffins and positively saying the exact statement, minus the last bit of lies.  “You sell your muffins for less than the baker across the street.  From what I can tell, you’ve found a way to get the same ingredients for less than he can get them and have come up with a way to make your muffins in half the time.  Way to go!”  Same statement, minus the lies, with a positive tone.  COMPLETELY different statement!  So remember that it’s often times not the words being said, but the intentions behind them that determine their tone.  If changing the intentions changes the tone, then you’re most likely dealing with a mere opinion and not a fact of any kind.

Tip #3:  Determine WHO you will listen to

As much as that email was hurtful with its malicious message, the author in no way fit the profile of an individual I would ever care to absorb opinion.  It’s absolutely crucial that we know exactly what kind of person we care to mind and therefore what type of individual we will pay NO mind.

For myself, I will always at least hear out family and friends.  This is, for the most part, a given.  But even here we need to be cautious.  Be sure this loved one has proper perspective to be paying you thought.  Even a friend isn’t always going to give good advice.

But what about mere acquaintances or even total strangers?  Some great advice has been given to me by strangers, so their lack of relationship to you should never keep you from learning from their insight.  It then comes down to their values, their mindset when sharing the thought and what they have to gain by your reaction to the comment.

It was obvious to me that the author of this email was not acting from a healthy set of values.  That this individual was not in a good mindset when they typed the hateful words and that the only thing they had to gain from my reaction was a sense of twisted satisfaction that they had knocked me down a notch.  It was obvious to me that this person did NOT hold an opinion that I needed to be mindful of.  And Once I realized this, it made it much easier to disregard them as someone having a bad day and frankly, not my concern.

Tip #4:  Accept your imperfections

We may be fully aware that we are not perfect people, but it can still sting when that imperfection is pointed out by another.  We try so hard to think things through and cover all the bases, but sometimes we drop the ball.  When this occurs and you get some flack for it, lean to take it in stride.  Quite often I find myself over focusing on a pointed out imperfection, trying to determine what went wrong and what I could have done differently.  This in itself can be a good thing, a way to learn from our mistakes, but once we find ourselves feeling discouraged as a result, we need to step back and accept the fact that EVERYONE makes mistakes.  The more comfortable you are with the fact that you’re going to trip up from time to time, the quicker you’ll bounce back when others make your imperfections known.

Tip #5:  Take a breather

The worst thing you can do when dealing with negative feedback is let your pride get involved.  You may want to lash out at someone or stoop down to their level.  This is NEVER a good thing.  You either continue a useless conversation or stoke the flames of a fire that only burns as long as two continue to tango.

Instead of reacting (and quite possibly over-reacting), sleep on it.  Give yourself some time to get away from the situation and even forget about it for a bit.  Let your subconscious chew on it for a while and see what it thinks.  The following day you can re-visit the issue and determine your course of action with a much greater chance of choosing wisely.  You may decide like I did that no response is necessary.  Or that becoming defensive will serve no purpose.  Whichever rout you choose, you’ll be doing so from a level perspective and not an in-the-moment reaction that might very well create more problems than you started out with.

Tip #6:  Build momentum regardless of reaction

Just as much as we should not let negative feedback knock us down, we need to be cautious about how much we rely on the positive to push us forward.  There’s nothing wrong with riding the waves of encouragement, but if this is the foundation we chose to build our future success, we will see our personal development crumble, time and time again.  Our motivation should come from knowing we are moving in the the right direction and that we are unwilling to settle for less than awesome.  We can enjoy the pats on the back when they come, but our identity needs to be formed from a foundation independent of those around us.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that as long as we are striving to better our lives as well as those around us, we should never fear the negativity that will inevitably come our way.  Some will be true and some, half-true, but none should make us feel any less capable than before.  Learn to properly filter this feedback and you will always maintain your motivation and proper piece of mind.

Eric

Comments

  1. says

    Great article, Eric. Being able to hear and observe feedback is one of the most important Agile Living skills. There’s too much change in the world today to execute long-winded life and business plans – they’re obsolete by the time they’re finished. When combined with action, feedback allows you to live flexibly and response-ably, staying in the present and responding creatively.

    CathD’s last blog post..Resources to Help You Think Straight & Get Stuff Done

    • says

      Thanks Cath! I agree that being able to observe feedback is key. We’re so often caught up in our emotions when someone shoots us down that we can’t accurately assess the situation. Excellent insight! Eric

  2. says

    Hi Eric,

    I have received negative feedback in emails from people who I don’t know and I know how bad some email can be. I consulted another fellow blogger, Jeremy from Insight Writer, and asked for advice and I did the same thing as what you have done. I ignored the email and moved on from it.

    The negative email was constantly appearing in my mind for the next few days and that had caused me to have some self doubts on myself. However my readers have shown me great support and I managed to overcome it. I believe if I were to argue and send a reply to the person who sent me the email, things will turn out to be much more complicated which will cause me to spend more time brooding over it.

    Those energy spent dwelling on the negative issue can be put into much better use. Such as thinking about generating articles that can help others to solve their problems in life.

    We cannot expect everyone to love us and what we are doing and there will definitely be some hate mails every now and then. But we always have the choice to choose to move away from the negativity.

    Thanks for sharing the article Eric.

    Cheers
    Vincent
    Personal Development Blogger

    Vincent’s last blog post..How To Get Things Done Even When You Do Not Feel Like Doing Anything

    • says

      I’m really glad you were able to move on from the email you received. It sounds like you had some great support! And like you said, we can’t expect love from everybody and it’s our expectations that are so often shattered when hate is thrown our way. Eric

  3. says

    Wow…just another example of something I needed to hear, just when I needed to hear it. I was raised by a woman who is focused on pointing out the negative. It took 30+ years, and counseling to realize that it really wasn’t me. I am now married to a man who does the same thing…and WE are dealing with that.

    You couldn’t be more right when you say to listen to the whole statement…but we must realize that some people just want to cut you down…that is their objective…and we do NOT need to feed into that.

    Thank you…I am very gratful for your words!

    • says

      Wow, it sounds like you’ve had your share of friction thrown your way. I’m glad you’ve managed to work through most of it and are currently working things out with your husband. I hope all the best with that. Eric

  4. says

    I’m retweeting this twice, just for importance. Nothing I can say but this is some much needed advice and I’ll most definitely refer back to it later.

  5. says

    “and the tone in which they are seasoned.” YES! That was awesome, Eric. I believe it’s important to evaluate the perspective of others, because even with half truths there is some part that can be sifted through to make you better, but you NEVER have to accept the unacceptable. Allowing someone else to belittle you in any way is never a vehicle to drive you forward. Taking a breather? The best advice on the page.

    Writer Dad’s last blog post..Welcome to the Inkwell

    • says

      A lot of it has to do with our OWN self-esteem. We tend to follow the lead of our own self talk and if it’s negative and someone throws more negative our way, we’re more likely to accept it as gospel. But you’re right, we can’t allow others to keep us from moving forward. Eric

  6. says

    Sound advice Eric! As a dancer I have faced a ton of criticism in my life. It’s just part of the auditioning/performing aspect of the dance world. It is hard sometimes, but most importantly it gives you a tough skin. Believing in yourself is the end all be all. If someones has something constructive to say..great! If it’s outright negative feedback for the sake of just being negative that’s when I get upset. Why put more negative energy into the world like that. As a blogger to I have had some negative comments and I always think “this person really took time out of their day to cut someone else down to make themselves feel better..they are just adding to the negative energy in the world.” Someone like that is def not worth your time or mental strife! Then again nothing is worth disrupting your internal space. Thanks for the reminder :)

    Amber’s last blog post..If You Like What You Read Please Vote: I Am Up For A Glam Network Award!

    • says

      I can imagine that being a dancer would certainly either give you a thick skin or break you.

      You mentioned your thoughts about how someone can actually take time out of their day to cut someone else down to make themselves feel better. I think the same thing, all the time. It just doesn’t make sense and yet I’ve had my bad days where I’ve unfortunately toyed with this stupidity. It’s when you receive the negative feedback yourself that you’re reminded about the importance of being mindful toward others.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Eric

  7. says

    Hi Eric,
    I’m exactly suffering from this problem at this moment. One friend of mine whom I like so much and who helped me secure a job years ago, I heard calling me with a name which I disliked so much. I have been a straightforward person who used to make others happy during my hostel days. I never had any phony and pseudo prestige like others. And used to love everyone from heart.
    And once I heard that good friend on mine is calling me with the name to another friend of mine. I felt devastated and went into a deluge of anger and remorse.
    I went about cursing myself for being so open with things and not being phony like or superficial like others. I hated for being poor at that time…with no mentors or proper guidance from elders.
    Now, after reading your post, I felt it’s better to let go and move on.
    I face these problems in my freelance career also. When I work for them for less, they’ll think I’m no good (of course, need some extra dough, though). How bad?
    Thanks for sharing such a touching post!
    Solomon

    Solomon’s last blog post..Leverage the RAW ENERGY of YOUR SPEECH

    • says

      Yeah, negativity coming from a friend is MUCH worse than receiving it from a stranger or even a mere acquaintance. Sounds like a hurtful situation.

      And I TOTALLY understand what you’re talking about with your freelance business. Eric

  8. Heather says

    Great article, really made me think about how I react to negative comments. I don’t actually get many negative comments, but I can be very defensive over the smallest things. I hate thinking that people are walking on eggshells for me, so I’ve been trying to be nicer to myself and accept that mistakes are ok, and they don’t mean I’m stupid, just human.

    It’s so easy to get upset and berate myself, but it only hurts me and upsets the people who care about me. My husband has been telling me I’m just fine how I am for years, and he was right. I don’t expect other people to be perfect, why should I expect it of myself? For me, the most powerful negative messages I get are coming from within, and it’s those I really need to channel in a more positive way.

    You were right to ignore the hate mail, you’re probably helping more people than you’ll ever know, and that’s the important thing.

    • says

      We sound very similar here. I may not receive a lot of negative feedback, but I can be way too hypersensitive with it. As you pointed out, the worst thing we can do is make our acquaintances feel like they’re walking on egg shells around us. A healthy mindset should be able to receive negative feedback without being shaken to the point of disruption.

      Thanks for sharing! Eric

  9. says

    Eric,
    This came at a perfect time for me! I have been struggling lately because of the comments of a fellow teacher at my school. I teach 5th grade and she teaches 6th. Her son is in my 5th grade class. It seems like every time I turn around she is giving me negative feedback.

    For example, recently her son refused to do a creative writing assignment. The rest of the class got theirs done in 30 minutes, but he handed in a blank paper. Normally, the procedure is to give that child an F. Instead, I asked him questions about why he did not do the assignment. “I didn’t feel like it,” he responded. I decided to involve his mom, to see if maybe she had any insights. Her response? “I talked to my son and he was unable to do the assignment because you are too boring as a teacher.”

    Nice. Other comments she has recently said:

    “Now that your own son is no longer in your class, will you be able to speed things up a bit?”

    “I’m trying to figure out why your class is so reluctant to read. [They’re not–each one of them begs to read in class] It has got to be something you’re doing wrong but I can’t quite figure it out.”

    “I am doing so many wonderful things with my 6th graders. Then I realized that when your 5th graders become my 6th graders I will never be able to do the same wonderful things with them because they are not as advanced when they come out of your class. And my poor son is being taught by you!”

    I wish I could let her comments roll off my back because all the other parents are very complimentary. Your suggestions are very good ones, so I will try to analyze which category my situation falls under and then make some changes! Thanks for so many good tips!

    Randi’s last blog post..My Baby Doll…A Call for Authors

    • says

      Wow, Randi, this lady’s really got it out for you!

      From reading her comments it sounds like there’s no doubt that she is intentionally trying to knock you down a notch. Usually this kind of consistent negativity in the circumstances you’re explaining, have to do with someone feeling threatened. Not in a physical way, of course, but as if she’s competing with you in her mind and she sees you as a threat to defeat her. Maybe not consciously, but subconsciously she feels better trying to bring you down than to leave you be.

      I’m sorry you have to deal with someone like that in your workplace. Especially with your kids involved. But it sounds like you’re handling it well and she certainly is the one with the problem.

      That’s the thing. If 9 out of 10 people see you in a positive light, that 1 negative person is the one with the problem. If it were the other way around, then you’d need to look at yourself and see what the heck you’re doing wrong.

      Thanks so much for sharing this and I hope it helped to vent some of it out. Eric

  10. says

    Don’t let it get you down, Eric. What people think of us is actually none of our business. We can only control what’s in our own sphere of influence, and that’s usually something as simple as how we choose to feel or think about the issue. Someone offering us malice is holding out a cardboard box full of toxic sludge. If we simply refuse to take it and choose instead to walk away, they’re left standing with a box of poison that will, eventually, leak and drip all over them.

    What we can do is choose to respond and not react. You responded in the end by writing this piece. We can choose to explore why we let something or someone push our buttons. Sometimes, we have a deep seated fear that what they’re saying has a grain of truth in it; other times, they access one of our direct route vulnerabilities (family members are particularly good at this one!); sometimes a person’s values are just so different from ours that we have no easy access programming to deal with their button pushing behaviour. The best way to deal with situations like this is to use them to learn as much as we can about our own paradigms and personalities.

    One of the best coaching tools I’ve ever learned was to ‘bless my (so-called) enemies’. That means ask yourself what you’ve learned from the incident or from their behaviour – there’s always something to learn, even if it’s just to appreciate how much you value NOT being like them – mentally thank them for the lesson, let go, and move on. We are reponsible for our own happiness; we’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got at the time.

    If that person is reading now, they won’t be able to avoid seeing how much we all care for and respect you.

    janice’s last blog post..Do Schools Kill Creativity?

    • says

      Thankfully I have a wife who is super supportive and really great with the OTHER kind of feedback.

      That’s really great advice to react in the opposite way and ‘bless’ the source of negativity. That’s an excellent way to break the cycle of hate, no doubt.

      Thanks for the kind words, Janice. I really appreciate it! Eric

  11. says

    Eric,

    I’ve been lured more than once into an email “war of words” from someone who wanted nothing more than just that. I’ve come to realize that (as Liz suggested) it is nothing more than a waste of my time to respond and stoke the fire. I’ve also realized that there are people out there who choose to attempt to break down others as a means of making themselves look important.

    While feedback (including negative feedback) is often times helpful, you must consider the source and the context of it. Personally, I look forward to emails and comments on my blog in the hopes that someone can provide insight into something I may have missed myself.

    Wouldn’t it be great if our minds had a SPAM filter for the feedback that we receive from others?

    Jake | Revive Your Life’s last blog post..Turning Recreation into Re-Creation

    • says

      I’m with you on the fact that disagreements are a great source of growth. It’s those people that just hate life and want others to do the same, that sometimes catch me off guard.

      You know, your last statement, though very funny, is actually quite an interesting thought. I use Gmail for ALL my email and I almost NEVER see spam. Because of this I’ve forgotten about the annoyance and frustration of getting multiple emails with few being anything more that a scam of some kind. But now, with a great spam filter, I enjoy a consistent stream of worthwhile emails. And without this spam, are we missing out on anything? Of course not! And without this hatefulness, would we be missing any kind of necessary insight? Not at all!

      Anyway, sorry to go off on a tangent. Just adding to your thought.

      Thanks for sharing your 2 cents. Eric

  12. says

    I have a saying about negative feedback and criticism – it’s either rubbish (so ignore it, you can’t please everyone) or good tips (negative feedback is the best kind of feedback, because it tells you what precisely to improve).

    So, evaluate, ignore it or learn from it.

    Dimitar Nikolov’s last blog post..Do What You Love

  13. says

    This is a great post. We all, at one time or another, have to deal with negative feedback. It’s pretty much unavoidable, which is why this post, and the advice you’ve included in it, is so great. Thanks for sharing it!

  14. says

    Eric,

    This is a great post AND extremely important to say the least. I deal with this all the time with my TV show. When you stick yourself out there (on broadcast cable…yikes) you sometimes get the crazies that contact you.

    Normally it is just 1/100 but of course that one sticks in your mind. I’ve noticed some great therapy is to ALWAYS respond calmly, cooly, and consistently.

    Example: “Thank you for the email and we respect all opinions.”

    • says

      I can imagine you get a lot of this, as you mentioned.

      That’s great advice. It’s all about neutralizing the situation and that sounds like a great way of doing so.

      Thanks for the insight! Eric

  15. says

    Hi Eric!

    Sounds like you did a great job handling this situation. I know that being in the public eye we have to expect things like that now and then but it can be such a bummer when you have to encounter people like that. Like so many commenters here have said, it accomplishes nothing to “feed the hate” by responding in kind or even responding at all in most cases.

    As Tess mentioned, I take a look at the feedback and see if there is a nugget of truth that I can use and then I discard the rest.

    Good job Eric and keep going man! You’re doing great!

  16. says

    Hi Eric,

    There are always people who love to give us the bitter pill of negativity. I had received negative emails from people who hate bad things about my blog and I just ignored it. I believe you did the right thing too. If you were to reply and get into a heated argument with him, you will be wasting your energy where you can put it into better use.

    Cheers
    Vincent
    Personal Development Blogger

    Vincent’s last blog post..How To Use Momentum To Help You Achieve Success

  17. says

    Fabulous post Eric

    The whole blame game and personalizing comments is a painful cycle that can cause us to spiral download and lose perspective. I have found that developimg the ability to step into a compassionately detached place allow me to step into curiosity when I receive negative feedback. It’s skill to learn and takes time to cultivate. When I have let me self-care drop and I am tired and overextended, I am more likely to react poorly to comments. That’s a heads up to me I am out of balance.

    Thanks!
    Lorraine
    http://www.powerfull-living.biz

    • says

      Thanks and excellent points! Being able to look at negative feedback as if you’re seeing it from the outside looking in is definitely a great way to look at it. Kind of like you’re looking at the feedback being pointed at another, pondering the reasoning and merit.

      And yes, when I’m over extended, I often regret my responses to such emails and the like. Eric

  18. says

    Things become different when the people in context are from a different culture. For example, in my local culture (in my country), it’s kind of given that you listen to your parents and stand by their wishes, or most of it, when ti comes to choices of career, the way forward, etc. Disobeying or choosing your own way, because you think something else is right, is quite a step and makes one feel quite lonely and feel that you don’t get their ‘blessings’ especially if they are not happy about it or explicitly state it. Here, minus-ing and filtering becomes much more difficult!

    George’s last blog post..Flop Blogging

    • says

      I can imagine. I’ve known a few people who have grown up in families that control through guilt. It’s certainly not healthy, but I’m sure it’s not easy to break free from either. Eric

  19. says

    Thanks for this post. Another thing I find useful, when I feel criticized, is to notice what I’m needing in that moment — in other words, what was I needing from the other person that I didn’t get? Was I needing them to praise me, listen to me, respect me? And how can I fill that hole within myself by respecting myself? So our reactions in these situations, I think, can usefully point to areas where we don’t fully love or appreciate ourselves.

    • says

      Wow Chris, that’s really insightful. I’ve never looked it that kind of situation quite like that, but I will from now on. Thanks for sharing! Eric

  20. says

    Completely with you on that one, Chris. Our reactions and responses are always about us, what we need, what we fear, what we value.

    What I’m finding really interesting about this thread, Eric, is that people have responded in a variety of wonderful ways depending on which word or phrase in the title and which aspect of the post they’ve had most personal charge from: How to deal with /negative /feedback. What I find most interesting is the overlap that’s been happening around the words “feedback” and “criticism”. Is “negative feedback” the same as an unwarranted personal attack? One thing we need to be clear on is whether we have invited the other person to share something with us, whether it’s unsolicited negativity or not. To me, “feedback” implies a higher level of welcomed response. It’s why we enable comments on our blogs and add contact forms. If we genuinely want feedback, then we have to be prepared to take the negative with the positive and learn from it. From the pain you expressed at the beginning of this post, I understood that the person who wrote abused your openess to feedback by combining negative feedback with unwarranted personal nastiness, which requires a completely different approach, the one Liz and I suggested initially. Walk away serenely and don’t give it power.

    janice’s last blog post..How to Write like Adam Lambert

    • says

      Yeah, I’m really impressed/intrigued by the different responses as well. I totally agree that there’s a big difference between negativity for the sake of negativity and genuine negative feedback (constructive criticism).

      I really like how Chris put it. Figuring out what we needed from that person is a great way to determine our own issues with the situation. Why did such and such bother us so much? Why did that comment make such an impact on your thoughts and emotions?

      And I like the way you worded that last sentence. We can’t afford to give power to those verbally abusive comments that come our way. Just turn and walk away. Eric

  21. Corkee says

    I enjoyed reading your article. Mean spirited or negative comments serve only one purpose…to allow a mean person to have a cyber voice. To respond to it just allows him to use his (or her) pointless voice again.

    This reminds me of all the horrid things that are written about celebrities. I wish I could use my cyber voice and tell them (and you) that the people that really count will never look at enquirer of even read to the end of a mean spirited comment. Let the water flow off your back because it’s just dirty water anyway.

    • says

      Well said, Corkee! You know, the more my face/name gets out there the more I risk stuff like this and this has got me thinking much more about what you just mentioned. I really do feel for celebrities, now more than ever (I’m SOOO not comparing myself to a celebrity, by the way :-) ) because anyone can say anything about them and people will just believe what they want to believe.

      You’re right in saying that you’ve just got to let it roll off your back because those that matter aren’t going to be the ones interested in gossip or slander. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate it! :-) Eric

  22. says

    Great thoughts Eric…. it’s tough to ignore or not be overcome with the negative. It feels like a single negative can outway 5 or 6 positive comments if we let it.

    We need to be confident in our selves and take all feedback with a grain of salt… and we need to own our responses to that feedback and not allow it to sway us too far in either direction.

    Good stuff Eric, thanks for sharing.
    Dave

    Do You Dave Ramsey?’s last blog post..Debt is Squalor

    • says

      Very true Dave! We can receive positive feedback left and right, but all it takes sometimes is on negative comment to make us feel like we’ve messed up or worthless. As you said, balance is key.

      Glad you enjoyed it! Eric

  23. says

    This is wonderful! I can so relate to this. The other day I had poured my heart out in a blog post. I shared that post with other members in a community I belong to. One of the public responses was something to the effect of ‘ WOW -that was way to deep and negative- let’s take a humor break’ I admit it stung, especially since it was a subject that I had been holding on to for a long time and was hesitant about sharing it because it was very personal (and not exactly cheery but I felt others could learn from it) Later on that day I returned to the community to read others posts. I ran across a blog post from the same respondent that left her message on my post- she wrote a very personal post about how she reacts with humor when she feels people are getting to close. I realized that even though she made a joke that I may have effected her in some deep way! I realize that a lot of times when people say things to you that you perceive as negative they are often operating from a place of ignorance and have their own reasons for leaving their reactions- they are deeply effected for whatever reason and they want to pass that on. I learned to forgive and try to see where they are coming from and why.

    Angie’s last blog post..Are you sabotaging your children’s future?

    • says

      Hey Angie, I really appreciate this. You certainly had a close encounter with the same kind of negativity that we’ve all faced at one time or another. It sounds like you handled it well and learned form the experience. You can’t ask for more that that! :-) Thanks for sharing. Eric

  24. Annette says

    May I offer a different spin on this ?

    Instead of “running away” and deleting the email without answering, which is a form of denial in a way, you could turn the table back on the person who sent those unkind negative emails. You can answer them in a totally non defensive way by asking them to explain their thoughts and anger. This demonstrates that you have read the correspondence, that you have thought calmly about what they had to say, but the content had not upset you, instead you were more concerned about their line of thoughts and negative energy.

    This shows you are more a mature and bigger person, who can feel compassion even for those who have attacked you.

    Often, in my experience, such a response will surprise the sender and make them think twice about their actions, which is a good thing. However, if the person continues in their ignorant way and send further abusive messages, then its proper to delete and ignore them then.

    • says

      Hey Annette, I think you make a valid point here. By turning the tables on the abusive emailer, you may not only make them think twice about sending such hateful messages, but they might even second guess their thought process all together.

      My only caveat with this is that some initial emails/letters/etc… are so plainly abusive that to even reply to it as if it were anything more than hate speech, is just giving attention to pure negativity.

      If we’re just speaking of general negative comments, than I would have to completely agree with your point, but in reference to the email I was referring to, I’d have to respectfully disagree.

      I could be wrong here and you make a very good point. I guess it’s a matter of preference as well. Eric

      • Annette says

        Hi Eric,

        Without the priviledge of reading the particular email you were referring to here, of course my comment has to base on more generalised situations.

        However, if the email was that offensive, then why was it so hard to just delete it ? Why would you want to subject your lovely wife to having to read it and then discussing it again in the afternoon ?

        Since that particular email spurred you on to think about and to write this article, you must have felt the need to defend yourself psychologically, even when you chose not to reply.

        Its just my opinion of course, and I dont mean to push the idea onto you, I simply suggest that if and when such a need arises, you may want to try going for control of the whole situation, beyond just controlling how you feel and react.

        • says

          I totally understand your perspective and hear what you’re saying. In regard to the email. Yes, it was THAT offensive and I should have just dropped it to begin with. I’m just a super people pleaser and have a hard time dealing with that kind of feedback. Hence, this post and this one as well. :-) Eric

          • Annette says

            Thanks Eric for sharing that aspect of your personality. That is very courageous of you. Its not an easy thing to talk about. Seeing now that you are highly sensitive, my approach probably would not work so well for you.

            I guess the response then should be chosen on the basis of what a person is capable of rather than what is the “best” outcome ?

  25. Sue says

    Hello, I just came across this site a couple of days ago. This article was really great, and the second strategy for handling negative feedback re the half-truth (or nasty barb hidden among a series of true facts)is really useful for Highly Sensitive People, vis-a-vis NOT getting hung up on trying to dissect and analyze every part of the negative feedback. (One of the best qualities about HSPs is that they do process their experiences and interactions very deeply; the same trait is also one of their biggest challenges/pains as it often results in over-analysis of interactions in terms of all the nuances, etc. Elaine Aron has done a lot of research on HSPs and has written some good books–very user friendly!) I know I’ve sent myself crazy on more than one occasion trying to analyze the intent of negative feedback received, the tone in which it was delivered, and whether I should bother to respond or not. One of my friends deals with negative feedback (especially if there’s a detectably nasty edge to it–i.e., not meant as constructive but misguided feedback) by simply stating “Thank you for sharing–I’ll get back to you on that” and then changing the subject. It seems to be a fairly good way of deflecting the energy of the comment while making it clear that he has heard the person and may consider the information but is not going to be pulled into a discussion about it or prodded into a hasty reaction.

    • says

      Hey Sue, I’m glad you connected with the content and I appreciate the added insight!

      I think your friends way of dealing with stuff like this is spot on. It’s kind of like saying, “I see your comment, I’ve analyzed it and I’m not interested in entertaining it. Bye.” PERFECT! :-) Eric

  26. says

    WOW SPOT ON!!!!
    I’ve been going through websites and trying to find out how to handle customers that that give you negative feedback
    When I did nothing wrong but help or so I thought until he said my service was lousy

    I have great feedback 99.9% of the time But it’s the 1% that get’s to you

    Thank you For the great tips Just what I needed

    Mell

  27. James says

    I once mentioned a friend as “a model” and a fellow man once said “did you say that to impress us?? I think you did…” and it totally leveled me. I WAS trying to impress people, and it backfired horribly. It was devastating feedback because I was doing it so frequently without fully realizing it. Instead I actually said “thank you… you’re right I was ” and he nodded at me understanding, then told me why I shouldn’t ever do that.

    I spent weeks thinking about how I was communicating to people, and found it was my own short comings that was causing me to impress others. After that, I practiced going entire days without mentioning any kind of accomplishment, benefit, status, goal, dream to ANYBODY, and felt great. I was finally letting people get to know ME. People would instead find out things on their own then say “Oh my gosh, that is so interesting…why didn’t you tell me that before,” and i was glad to after that. Men began respecting me more, and women would listen to everything I said intently. My dating life improved, and friendships got better.

    So next time someone complains about you or even tells you something candid that you know is true, look them in the eye and say “thank you, you’re absolutely right” and make a change. It may save your life.

  28. Jess says

    That was all really spot on. I enjoyed reading that. Hopefully it will help me out. I’ve had negitive feedback before and it does put you down. Makes me feel terrible when I’m trying really hard yet I still get negitive feedback. Some of it has been half truth and half real. So from the real negitive feedback I’ve tried to improve. But I’ve decided that I can only do my best and keep trying. If I still get negitive feedback after that then there’s not alot I can do. I put it down to the fact that Im still young and need more experience. I think I’ll get better in time. I’m still learning how to do things and there’s alot to remember.

  29. Jenny says

    This is great! I googled tonight looking for something to read to help me calm my spirit after receiving some “half-truths” as you so appropriately call them served up in anger. I’m still processing but your article definitely helped me feel less alone. Thank you!

  30. Rachel says

    Thank you! I am developing a manual for women to know how to defend their communities against indecent materials and I was writing the piece for how to handle negative opposition. I was wondering can I use these tips with your name as credit?
    I can send you a final electronic copy of the manual in march!
    Rachel Richins Womenfordecency.org

  31. says

    Often there is something we can learn from negative feedback. Other times we may just be feeling the sting because somebody else has taken their anger out on us. It isn’t us that is the issue, it’s them.

    But once negative feedback has been sent our way the only thing we have control over is how we react. And how we react is what determines how the negativity affects us.

    Great tips on how to handle it Eric.

    Tom Maurer | Simple and Spiritual’s last blog post..The World Isn’t Out To Get You

  32. says

    That’s what I meant when I said “We can choose to explore why we let something or someone push our buttons…The best way to deal with situations like this is to use them to learn as much as we can about our own paradigms and personalities.” The power’s in the choosing.

    janice’s last blog post..How to Choose the Desires that Guide You

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