How to deal with negative feedback?

Giving and receiving feedback

Receiving criticism after you have put a lot of work and effort into something can be devastating. Sometimes, all you hear in this feedback is personal criticism, making you miss opportunities for growth. So, how should you deal with negative feedback? 

The way in which feedback is given makes a huge difference. Because comments like ‘This report is rubbish!’ or ‘Where did you get your degree?’ can seriously dent your confidence. So yes, there is a difference between feedback and criticism:

  • Feedback identifies areas for development and helps you grow. Example: ‘I find your report too vague. Try to include some figures and examples.’
  • Criticism comes from a kind of power assertion. The person doing the criticising is focused more on the result than of their relationship with you. Or their ego takes over. Example: ‘If this is your idea of a report, you are either stupid or blind.’

Crucial: walls and boundaries

The key to dealing well with critical comments? Turn criticism into feedback. Not easy to do. Anné Linden’s technique will help put you on the right track. The American psychologist identified three scenarios when receiving feedback:

  1. You put up walls: you block out all feedback. This way, you not only repel the aggression or generalisation of the person giving the criticism, but also their feedback. And it is exactly this feedback that provides opportunities for growth.
  2. You set no boundaries: you let everything in. Both feedback that allows you to grow and criticism that hits you personally. In this case, you either go on the defensive or flee. The result: the feedback misses its target.
  3. You set boundaries: you act like a barrier. You only let things pass that you can learn from. Things that don’t serve you, you simply let go. This is the healthiest way to deal with feedback.

Better version of yourself

Deciding what is feedback and what is criticism is not always easy. So, ask yourself the question: does this make me a better version of myself? If the answer is yes, then the comments offer opportunities for growth you can use. If all a comment does is knock you down, then it is criticism and the best thing you can do is to just let it wash over you.

To separate useful info from the rest, your brain actually has to function similarly to the cells in your body. Their semi-permeable membranes allow some substances to pass through while blocking others. A nice example of this semi-permeability is the kidneys. They filter out waste products from your blood and secrete them.


Feedback is a tricky issue, that much is clear. Fortunately, there are several techniques and exercises that can help you deal with feedback better.

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