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, 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 we are all human becomings and it has taken you your whole life to come to the understanding you have now, just as it has taken them their whole life to come to theirs.

Sthe fact that they are bringing you what seems like negative feedback might mean one of four things:

  1. They are far ahead of you in the way they understand the world, so the changes you suggest are no longer relevant for them.
    (This likely means their feedback is encouraging you to move forward faster but they’re not articulating it very clearly.)
  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 with you, how much effort would that take, and is it a priority for you to make that effort?)
  3. They are exactly the people you are trying to influence but they are not understanding the way you are communicating your vision.
    (So listen to them, understand their point of view, learn from them, and adapt your message to make it more relevant to the way they see the world.)
  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 — and that’s fine).

What might at first seem like negative feedback is always an opportunity for you: either to refine and improve your message or to stop wasting time.

So when someone brings you what seems like negative feedback:

  • Listen, thank them, and make sure you’ve understood them correctly
  • Ask yourself: does this change my priorities, or the route I take to try to reach my priorities?
  • And then do it anyway: either the same as before or better

Has anyone given you what seemed like negative feedback recently? Is it an opportunity for you to shift forward your understanding, improve the way you are communicating, or shift your energy and resources somewhere else?


Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and 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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