“Negative feedback can make us bitter, or it can make us better.” – Robin Sharma

Have you ever received feedback from someone that knocked the wind out of you, almost knocking you a step back? It’s horrible, soul-destroying, and something most of us will avoid wherever we can. Generally, we don’t walk around looking for complaints, criticism and challenges to our ideas and actions.

But – this will inevitably happen regularly throughout life. In fact, the more confident and vocal we are, and the more open we are to trying new things and embracing change… the more we will encounter negative feedback.

When this happens, we need to remember: the feeling of deep distraught and disappointment will dissipate over time. Initially, it will feel so much bigger than it really is, but then it will get better, and hopefully, if we don’t allow it to make us bitter, we will be able to return with our best.

The thing with hard feedback that we can rarely see at the time is that after a while, it will begin to feel useful. We might even begin to feel grateful for it (not always, but sometimes).

So many analogies help us understand this, and as we think about them, they make complete sense. Negative feedback can be a bitter pill to swallow (most pills are not great!). The higher we climb, the more exposed we are to the elements of changing conditions.

But even in knowing this, it’s helpful to have a few tricks up our sleeves to engage in a way that will make us better, not bitter.

The first trick is really tough, because when we feel like we’re under attack, it’s often the last thing we naturally do, and it’s this: listen. 

Listen to what they are saying, listen to where it’s coming from and listen for the truth in what they’re saying. Remember, when people offer criticism, it will always be bundled in their insecurities, making it challenging to distinguish what’s helpful from what’s hurtful. Is this fact or opinion? Is it accurate or aggressive?

If we listen carefully, we can discard the hurtful stuff and focus on the helpful stuff. This is also how we make the problem smaller because we’re already shaving off all of the unhelpful bits. Adopting this approach enables us to be discerning and not defensive. 

Remember this too, we can always ask for time to think about what they’ve said and if we want to, or need to, make changes. We don’t just have to comply and accept negative criticism. Sometimes we need to stand our ground, and taking time to think things over can help us build the resilience we need to take the best course of action forward. Thriving in life is not about removing all of life’s problems, challenges and difficult people. Thriving is about having tools and strategies to bolster our resilience and bounce back better so that we can live at our best.