Had some negative feedback and feeling crushed? It happens to all of us, and learning to deal with it in a constructive way will make us more successful.
Some would say “ignore it, don’t listen to negative thoughts or negative people.” They paraphrase Churchill and say “never, never, never, never give up”. Is this really the right way? If we are feeling hurt and insulted, it is instinctive to lash out or retreat into ourselves. If we are told or tell ourselves to ignore it, we feel even worse.
Pretending that life is good when it isn’t or that words don’t hurt only cause conflict and more negative thoughts. It’s hard to be happy or relaxed when we feel under attack. Research shows that people who pretend to be happy when they are not suffer more stress. Reivich and Shatte call it “Pollyanna optimism”–trying to replace a negative belief with an unreasonably optimistic belief.
Yet negative feedback, thoughts and beliefs get in the way of achieving our goals. From my own experience as a mediator and studying research, I find there are 3 things that really help.
1. Acknowledge the hurt
Admitting that the feedback or comment hurts and understanding why is important. Self-compassion (not self-pity) is part of the healing process. As with any wound, one needs to examine it and decide what is needed. Giving ourselves permission to have a few tears or rant releases emotions–like draining an abscess. Psychiatrist Mark Goulston, in his book Just Listen, talks about the importance of recognising the “Oh #@!!” phase before trying to resolve and calm the situation. We need to listen to our own feelings before we try and move on.
“The most important thing is that we need to be understood. We need someone to be able to listen to us and to understand us. Then we will suffer less.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
2. Realistic Perspective
The next step is to ask ourselves what evidence supports that thought? What evidence is there that it is untrue? Often it helps to have someone work through this with us, as we might only see evidence on one side. It helps to look at the three areas highlighted by researchers into resilience by asking
What was in my control?
Is this something that always happens?
Is this true about every other situation?
For example, if I have had negative feedback on a presentation. I could either blame the venue, the audience or myself–looking more closely at the evidence would give me a more realistic view. If this is a one-off time that my presentation was criticised, then the negative feedback may not be as weighty as if it happened regularly.I could either t feel that people will now give negative feedback on everything–or think about other situations where one had positive feedback. The importance is to be as objective as possible…this is why you need to vent first.
3. Learn and Look Forward
Seeing negative feedback as an opportunity for learning helps us focus on the future. Thinking about what one can do better next time gives us more control and helps us move out of self-pity. In the case of the presentation, I could re-do the presentation, I could go on a presenters course. Or I might think, well the evidence is that usually, it works well, so maybe it was just the wrong venue, or what the people wanted/expected wasn’t what they received.
Dealing with negative situations and need some help?