5 ways to heal the hurt of feedback

Turn the hurt into hope with a different outlook and attitude.

Getting negative feedback, especially from those we respect and trust, can quickly become an emotional train wreck that leaves us feeling hurt, helpless, and even a little bit hopeless. And when critical feedback is repeated over time, researchers have found that it can diminish our productivity, motivation and even our prospects for employment.


How can we turn a hurtful comment into a helpful construct? Try practicing the following five techniques, and you’ll start receiving feedback without fear — and maybe even with joy!

Receive, don’t respond

Instead of reacting to feedback right away, put some distance between you and the message. Listen to the review. Read the comments. But instead of deciding in that moment how you feel about the feedback, simply pause. Thank the person for sharing it and signal your intent to think about it later. Waiting to respond can prevent you from saying or doing something you may later come to regret.

Assess, don’t obsess

Not all feedback is valid or valuable. Consider the source, context and scope of feedback before allowing it to affect your thoughts, beliefs or actions. When trust runs lows, it might be helpful to flip the frame and examine whether the issue is personal (who you are), pervasive (how often it’s happening) or permanent (whether it can be changed). Flawed feedback hardly fixes anything.

Seek, don’t sulk

When feedback is hurtful, we naturally resist, revise and retreat. That’s why it’s so important to seek clarity from trusted sources who can help us find the signal in the noise. Asking the right questions can generate stronger insights and reveal the issues we might otherwise overlook. We can’t get better all by ourselves.

Put goals before grudges

An effective way to heal the hurt is to get goal-oriented. Rather than carry on with grievances and grudges, focus on your plan, performance and progress. The best goals aren’t just SMART, but FAST — frequently discussed, ambitious, specific and transparent. Ask yourself: What needs to change? Who can help me get there faster? How will I know when I’ve arrived? By setting new targets instead of settling old scores, we’re more likely to make our mark.

Reflect, don’t deflect

As a final measure, think about how you can close the feedback loop with the giver. This is more than just a courtesy. Sharing your goals and asking for additional input (assuming you want it) will demonstrate your credibility and boost the likelihood for future feedback. Show the giver how you’ve managed to let feedback pass through you, not by you.

Most of us remember the sting of negative feedback long after it’s delivered. But when we make way for a more thoughtful and focused response, chances are we’ll benefit from feedback long into the future as well.

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