Handling negative feedback

How to Handle Negative Feedback

It’s Okay, And Even Necessary, For Some Of Them To Hate You. Whether is it positive or negative feedback, any feedback should be expected.

Imagine your life as a YouTube video. You work hard on the content, edit, and tinker till it’s exciting and presentable, you then upload the results for all to see. Your URL goes live and your video becomes accessible to the world. Then the negative feedback starts pouring in.

Something startling happens. Among the hundreds of ‘likes’ you’ve accrued, you discover that twenty or so mean-spirited individuals have hit ‘dislike.’ They actually went through the time and trouble to let you know that they disapproved of you. You’re staggered. It’s like they looked at you, a whole human being, and voted ‘no.’

How do you react?

For most people, social disapproval is not just uncomfortable. For them, it’s actually a worst-case scenario. There’s a reason that Public Speaking is regularly cited as the world’s number one fear, and it has nothing to do with the mechanics of speaking itself. It is simply that the act of standing before a group and expressing yourself is the quintessential forum for evaluation and judgment by strangers.

We fear disapproval.

Or at least, we do when we are starting out. Serious career-builders quickly ascertain that this fear is completely counterproductive. Off-course someone out there is going to disapprove of you. It will happen whether you sit safely in your cubicle and never do anything (Such a wall-flower! No spine!), or you become the office superstar and revolutionize the industry (Who does this glory-hound think she is?!).

Negative Feedback and Criticism is unavoidable

Disapproval is numerically inescapable. But bowing to the perceived pressure, well, that’s your choice. That decision is under your control. Besides, any feedback is good, negative or positive.

What happens depends on the choice you make? For starters, whichever path you choose becomes amplified over time. The more you bow to the negative feedback of others, the more you train yourself to be the kind of person who bows to the negative feedback of others. It’s a form of self-governance that grows ever stricter and more repressive.

Focus on the Positive and Learn for the Negative

Conversely, the more you dismiss criticism in a good-humored way, knowing that it’s inevitable and not taking it too seriously, the more you train yourself to be the kind of person who can act independently, get results, and lump the dislikes.

So, if you wrestle with the fear of others’ opinions, let’s begin with an aphorism that high-stakes players take to heart: ‘Tigers do not lose sleep over the opinion of sheep.’

You need the leeway to act

You will have to ruffle a few feathers if you are to become anything. Paralysis by over-care will not serve you. A couple of ‘dislikes’ on your upload are normal, natural and necessary.

So, imagine if you made mental accommodation for them. Imagine if you were to give yourself permission to fail from time to time. More revolutionary still, imagine if you gave others permission to disapprove of you. They are entitled to their thoughts, and you need the space and the freedom to act and to try. Both are permissible.

As you grow beyond employee and into the ranks of leadership – or better still, thought-leadership – you will need to increasingly permit yourself the freedom and leeway to be disliked.

Negative Feedback is a part of Everyday Living

Certainly, it’s wonderful when people give themselves over to your heart and soul. But it’s also almost mythically rare. Most industry legends are hated every bit as much as they are loved. They will have armies of followers, and mobs who would love nothing more than to burn them at the stake. Most don’t care, as they boldly go about their work. They trust their inner voice and believe in themselves. They allow themselves the space to be phenomenal, and occasionally, to be hated.

So go ahead. Collect a ‘dislike’ or two. You may be delighted to discover that it makes absolutely no difference. And you might just learn to love your newfound freedom to be.