The Silver Lining in Negative Feedback

Have you recently been given some negative feedback and you’re not sure what to do? Maybe you’ve got an annual review coming up and want to be prepared? However much we’d like to avoid it, we’ll all find ourselves on the receiving end of negative feedback at some point. Well you’re in the right place! In this post we’ll look at negative feedback, how to handle it and why often it’s not actually so negative after all.

As a freelance copywriter I’ve received my fair share of negative feedback. Like most things in life, practice makes almost perfect and handling negative feedback is no exception. If I fixated on every time I was asked to rewrite something I’d never write a single word again.

Over the years I’ve learnt how to handle negative feedback and how to use it as a positive. Read on for some tips I’ve picked up along the way which might come in handy.

No-one wants an “emperor’s new clothes” situation

HappyMind Blog - Negative Feedback | The Emperor's New Clothes
Hans Christian Andersen (1837)

However painful negative feedback can feel, it’s a thousand times better than being surrounded by people relentlessly focussing on the positives, leading to the same mistakes being made over, and over.

A strong team is one which holds each other accountable and looks for opportunities to learn and improve. Part of a healthy working dynamic is having colleagues who aren’t afraid to ask whether there could be a better way to do something. Or even just say when something’s simply not good. Being surrounded by people who can give you honest feedback offers you the opportunity to keep developing and growing your skills. So, receiving negative feedback can actually be a good thing – it’s a positive sign you’re part of a strong team who trust each other and are helping your professional and personal growth. 

Forewarned is forearmed

Ok that sounds a little more aggressive than I intended. Receiving negative feedback doesn’t have to be a battle scenario – in fact it will be a lot easier if you can let your defences down and keep an open mind. Having said that, it can feel like a tough conversation, and it does help if you go into it feeling prepared. 

Chances are the meeting isn’t going to come out of the blue. So do a little bit of prep before you go in – have a think about how things went, and any elements that could’ve gone better. Be really honest with yourself here. 

Going in prepared with some areas you’ve already identified which didn’t go so well will make you come across more self-aware and professional. Plus, it helps if you can explain some of the not-so-great moments – often a bit of context can really help in explaining why something didn’t go to plan. It also helps if you can compile some learnings from the mistakes you’ve identified so you can outline how they’ll be avoided in the future, and steps you’ll take to ensure it goes better next time.

Take a moment

Negative feedback can really sting and it’s totally understandable to want to rush to defend yourself. Being on the receiving end of negative feedback is a classic stressful situation, prime for triggering the fight or flight response. Try to take a moment, and think before you respond. It’s completely fine to ask for some time to gather your thoughts – and will come off a lot better than a rushed, emotional, spur-of-the-moment defensive reaction.

HappyMind Blog - Negative Feedback | Lady drinking coffee taking a moment

Pro tip: Do some box breathing ahead of the meeting to get those cortisol levels down so you’re going into it in a more relaxed state. 

Not all feedback is good feedback

Criticism is best when it’s constructive. Don’t be afraid to challenge feedback if it’s not framed in a way that’s helpful – simply telling someone something is bad without any explanation doesn’t help anyone. You can’t learn how to fix a mistake or avoid it in the future if you don’t know what it is you’re trying to avoid.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Really drilling down into the negative feedback will help you to understand what went wrong and how to do better next time.

No pain no gain

The biggest rewards are often found outside of our comfort zone and when we’re taking on new challenges we’re more likely to make a few mistakes along the way. And that’s ok! Every bit of negative feedback is an opportunity to learn and keep improving – sometimes it’s just part of the learning process.

HappyMind Blog - Negative Feedback | Woman doing crossfit workout

Reframing negative feedback as an opportunity to learn can help you move on from it and retain your resilience for tackling the next challenge. And it also helps to remember that receiving some negative feedback can actually be a good sign that you’re really pushing yourself and taking on bigger challenges. 

Create a little folder of wins

It can be easy to dwell on the negatives and forget all the times you’ve succeeded. So something I’ve found that really helps is compiling a folder or note of all the times I’ve received praise or recognition. Everytime you get positive feedback, screenshot it or type it up. Then when you’re feeling a little bit bruised from when something didn’t go quite so well, you can browse through that folder and remind yourself of all the moments when you’ve totally smashed it!

Handling negative feedback might never be your favourite thing, but hopefully these tips will help it feel a little bit less negative. It’s also important to remember that we all encounter negative feedback from time to time, no-one gets it right all the time!

If you’d like to delve into this further, our Challenging Conversations training course could help you feel more equipped for meetings like performance reviews. And our Boosting Resilience training could help you bounce back from negative feedback and feel stronger to tackle the next challenge.

Sign up for HappyMail
Author at HappyMind Training

We love feedback!

May we quote you on our website?

Help make it better

How useful is this calendar as a resource? (optional)

Help make it better

How useful is this calendar as a resource? (optional)

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This