Why receiving negative feedback isn’t easy, but necessary

by Jess Soothill

Someone contacted me a few weeks back asking me for some advice around their newly launched blog and social media channels; they were looking to start blogging (to make it a career) and wanted some feedback. I, of course, obliged. I’m here to help out with anything I can, plus it’s great to pass on some knowledge to anyone starting out. I thus sent some constructive criticism over in a really supportive (but honest) manner, with helpful action points too.

I was then rather taken aback — and quite surprised — when the woman defended literally all of it. It felt a little hostile; I didn’t feel comfortable taking it any further. So I let it go. I felt as though she’d only wanted to hear how ‘great’ her blog looked…and that she hadn’t really wanted any suggestions at all.

I told my husband of the matter and his reaction was that he LAUGHED OUT LOUD. He said that I am exactly the same as her, i.e. I have always been the worst at taking any kind of criticism; whether over my work, my cooking, my appearance etc — only ever wanting to hear ‘nice things’. This obviously instantly got my back up and I immediately told him “He was a dick” (which, I guess, on reflection, concludes how right he is on the matter).

Admittedly, at times in my life, I have been a bit rubbish at taking negative feedback. I’m fine at handing out all the advice, giving my view on matters, and supporting anyone with their problems, but, if done to me, I’ve often been left feeling upset — or taken it really personally. More so if it’s after I have put a lot of energy, effort and heart into something.

Like the blogger, perhaps, (and like a lot of other people), during my life I’ve only ever wanted to hear praise, positivity, and a ‘well done’ for hard work. But life isn’t like that, is it? And we do need constructive feedback from others in order to grow and develop into better people, or employees. Because we don’t always know best. We do, at times, need the support from others (usually with more expertise than us) to point out where we can improve.

Maybe it was my immaturity back then? Perhaps I was a little too arrogant for my own good? Maybe I was too sensitive and found it hard to hear anything negative? Whatever it was, now that I’m older and wiser I totally understand how valuable receiving constructive feedback is, and how absolutely crucial it is for work, motherhood, relationships and friendships.

EverydayHealth.com, says “All of us want to be accepted and appreciated for who we are. We are embarrassed and sometimes feel guilty or ashamed when others notice a problem behaviour or a mistake we have made. That’s why it is sometimes difficult to come across as one who can accept constructive criticism. But being open to learning and growing is a desirable characteristic in any job position or relationship. Don’t feel that you have to “protect your turf” and go into defence mode just for the sake of appearing right — or even perfect”.

The article adds, “Accepting the advice of others is the hallmark of an open mind and cooperative spirit. Accepting constructive criticism can make you a more effective friend, partner or employee”.

Entrepreneur.com agrees. It says, “It’s no secret that most people don’t like having their flaws pointed out to them. But the fact is that other people often see our shortcomings more clearly than we do. And feedback, especially the negative kind, an invaluable gift, provided you’re able to accept it gracefully”

Accepting constructive criticism is therefore something I know is good for me. I’ll thus be listening to others far more, and be more receptive to using the advice to make positive changes.

Obviously you don’t need to listen to ALL the negative feedback you get from the entire world, (especially at a time when everyone online has an opinion on everything you do), but when it comes from trusted people in your life, such as a boss, a mentor, a partner, or close friends, it is worth listening to.

Negative feedback guides our opportunities for growth. No matter where we are in life, all of us will have stuff we can work on. While negative feedback may not be pleasant to receive, it gives us a different perspective to consider. By learning from more different perspectives, we can grow much faster. And that’s a path I’m willing to take.

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Written by Editor, Jess Soothill

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Jess Soothill

Jess is a Mother of twins, blogger and writer.

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4 Comments

  1. Anne-Marie G
    January 17, 2019 / 7:29 am

    It’s a really interesting one this, I think that many people (and I include myself in this!) buy into in constructive feedback and criticism wholeheartedly. For all the reasons you’ve outlined it’s essential. However, what I’ve experienced is that agreeing it’s a good thing doesn’t take away the initial ‘sting’ on receipt of it. The second (and more difficult) phase of growing with feedback is to develop the emotional intelligence to set the sting aside when it rears it’s head. This is actually the hard bit and quite overlooked as part of the process of feedback, it’s fine to feel the sting, it’s natural, but it’s about setting it aside to focus on the actual feedback itself. I think most people read up on the benefits of a bit of constructive criticism, think, hell yeah let’s improve, and then find themselves surprised that the emotional response to criticism still rears it’s ugly head.

  2. January 17, 2019 / 1:41 pm

    I joined a writing group last year and since then I’ve become quite accustomed to receiving feedback – good and bad – on things that I’ve written. I must admit that sometimes I’ve felt a bit defensive on hearing criticism of my work (although it’s only ever been constructive) – it’s so close to you it feels a bit personal I suppose. As time’s gone on I’ve come to appreciate how much I’ve gained from taking the criticism on board and making the improvements suggested – I really think what I’m producing is much better for it. I think accepting criticism gracefully is probably a skill, and like most skills, it has to be learned. Great post. xx

  3. January 23, 2019 / 11:03 pm

    This has been a real learning curve for me because i know that I’m not good at taking criticism whether it be constructive or otherwise. I often end up on the defensive. I TRY to weigh it up (if it comes from someone who I know has my best interests at heart) and work out what of it actually does need consideration. Great post, Jess. x

  4. January 28, 2019 / 9:41 pm

    Do you know what, I’ve never asked anyone to review my site for this exact reason. I’m not good at taking negative comments and am happy with my own space, I don’t want to hear someone else’s opinion. Although, I know that it’s a bad attitude and I’m ultimately losing out. Well done on trying to help the new blogger by the way ; )

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