Even negative feedback is an opportunity

Two women pass, heading in different directions

As you work to bring your changes into the world, some people will inevitably tell you you’re wrong.

They’ll say you’re too early or too late, too simple or too complicated, too shallow or too deep, going about it in the wrong way, in the wrong place, with the wrong people, at the wrong time.

Listen to them and thank them.

And then remember that it has taken you your whole life to come to the understanding you have now and it has taken them their whole life to come to theirs. Sthe fact that you have different viewpoints might mean one of four things:

  1. They are far ahead of you in the way they understand the world, so the changes you are suggesting are no longer relevant to them.
    (This likely means their feedback is encouraging you to move forward faster.)
  2. They are far behind you and not yet ready to understand the changes you are suggesting.
    (In which case, what would it take for them to catch up? How much effort would that require from you? Is that a priority for you?)
  3. They are exactly the people you are trying to influence but they do not understand the way you are communicating your vision.
    (So listen, learn, and adapt your message to make it more relevant to them.)
  4. They are simply on a different path. They are headed towards a different purpose with different values.
    (So your work will never be relevant for them, which is fine).

What seems at first like it’s ‘negative’ feedback is always an opportunity for you: either to save wasted time or to focus and improve your message.

So when someone brings you ‘negative’ feedback:

  • Listen and thank them and make sure you’ve understood them correctly
  • Take the opportunity to ask yourself: does this change my priorities, or does it change the route I take to try to reach them?
  • And then do it anyway: either the same as before or in a new and improved way

Has anyone given you what seemed like negative feedback recently? Is that an opportunity for you to gain a deeper understanding of what you really want, or improve what you are doing? Or should you say thank you and carry on with renewed clarity and focus?


Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and a set of tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo by Pedro Ribeiro Simões via StockPholio.net

2 Replies to “Even negative feedback is an opportunity”

  1. Well said – dealing positively with one own’s emotions when getting “negative” feedback is key to proceed on the path oneself has envisioned to go. Perhaps some pivoting, reframing, or new wording will be necessary. Nevertheless we are all born to learn a life long.

    • Thanks Ralf, I’m glad you found it useful.
      The reframing you talk about is explicitly covered in Chapter 2 of inner leadership.
      And as you also say, knowing our Purpose clearly provides a ‘lighthouse’ that we can use to orient ourselves in the deepest storm. This is Chapter 5.

      With just those two tools then life long learning suddenly becomes a lot easier 🙂

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