Responding To Negative Feedback

Have you ever received negative feedback from something you have said or done? I wish I could have all those hours of sleep back that I lost worrying about a comment someone said to me or an email someone had sent me.

Picture this. You have prepared for an event, planned it perfectly and executed it with precision. In fact, on the “Event Evaluation Form” that was handed out you received 10’s across the board from most people and a written note of praise from many of them. There were more than a hundred people confirming your effort, commitment and success of the event.


There is that one comment. You know the one, that one comment that stopped just short of talking about your mom. That comment that paints you as the worst person in history. Here is a real life example of what I am talking about. This is an actual comment from someone who had some “constructive criticism” for a communicator.

“Poor communicator. He used his time to do mediocre isogesis of Bible stories and referenced topics in sociology and personality theory, but it was obvious he had not done enough in depth homework for it to be helpful. I was very dissatisfied with this session.”

Usually this person will sign their name, “Unknown” as was the case in the above quote. It’s remarkable how many brothers and sisters this guys has! So, who was the communicator receiving this wonderful feedback? Me!

Yes. I was the communicator!

Yes, It hurt.
And, It wasn’t the first negative comment I have received.
And, It wasn’t the worst negative comment I have received.
And, It won’t be the last negative comment I will receive.

Four Thoughts For Responding To Negative Feedback

1. Keep A Healthy Perspective

Keep a healthy perspective when you receive negative feedback. Pain gives us perspective, doesn’t it? There are some people who are so negative it’s like they’re earning an award for it. They feel compelled to “help” you with their constructive criticism and honest response. Remember, you can’t please everyone. Keep calm and carry on. It’s one comment, not a life critique. Oh, if someone uses the word isogesis or another word you need to look up it’s okay to simply toss the comment card into your box

2. Put It In A Box

Put those negative comments in a box. No, not to dwell on them but to use them. They may be painful now but they will be priceless later. In a few years you will have a book or a blog that can help someone else who has received a negative comment.

3. Ignore The Note

This may seem unconventional but the simple fact is, they are wrong. Someone once told me, “Craig, there’s a little bit of truth in every criticism.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Sometimes people are just wrong. Listen. If you receive 100 comments and 1 of them is negative, move on. If you receive 100 comments and only 1 is positive then move up and try again. A negative comment isn’t the end of something you did but the beginning of something you will do.

4. Embrace The Learning

While not all comments are 100% truthful that doesn’t mean you can’t learn something. How about an attitude of humility? How about courage to keep going? How about a sense of humor? How about emotional resilience or gumption, tenacity, grit, commitment, resolve, or the ability to overcome and continue? Embrace that comment, make a change if you need to and keep going.

We don’t ever want to develop a callous approach to negative feedback always assuming the writer is wrong or having a bad day or expressing a negative attitude or just wanting to vent. Let’s strive to be leaders with tough skin and sensitive heart.

Final Two Thoughts

1. Don’t let negative feedback define you, let it develop you.

2. Don’t let negative feedback make you bitter, let it make you better.

How about you? Have you ever received negative feedback? How did you respond?


Photo Credit: c andrey_l