Mind Management: Top 10 Tips On How To Deal With Criticism


In the course of business, you’ll be dealing with lots of negative feedback from staff, colleagues, clients, friends, family and even mere observers. Being at the receiving end of any kind of negative feedback is painful and can have a devastating effect on your confidence and self-esteem. Feedback (good and bad) is very important however you need to learn to deal with it and handle it properly if you are to utilise it positively to develop yourself.

Dr Steve Peters in his book The Chimp Paradox: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness talks about two brains, the chimp brain and the human brain. The chimp brain, the emotional brain interprets information with feelings and impressions whilst the human brain, the logical brain works with facts and will search for the truth. The chimp brain makes a lot of assumptions and fills in information gaps with guesses, paranoia and defensive thoughts. Unfortunately, this is the brain that gives and receives negative feedback. We have to be careful and avoid the chimp taking over every feedback and turning it into a painful emotional roller coaster ride. Most non-objective feedback and criticism comes from the chimp brain.

Big corporates spend a lot of money teaching their managers to give effective feedback because they understand that feedback given the wrong way is a car crash waiting to happen! It can do real damage to relationships and people’s self-esteem and ultimately affect productivity.

So, how do you deal with negative feedback? How do you bounce back from being criticised? How do you respond and react in the face of criticism?

Below are 10 tips to bear in mind when dealing with negative feedback: 

Tip 1: As far as possible 

You are told not to let praise get to your head. It’s even more important that you keep the negative feedback and criticism as far away from your head as possible.  Most of us replay bad events in our minds like a movie, reliving the pain. Don’t torture yourself by going over the experience over and over again.  This applies to either oral or written negative feedback. Most celebrities don’t Google themselves for this same reason.

Tip 2: Self-serving bias

Our Chimp brain has what is called a “self-serving bias”, it’s quick to absolve itself of blame and rationalises everything to make itself look good. That goes both ways whether it’s you giving the feedback or receiving it so don’t let it get to you. Nobody gives feedback that will reflect badly on themselves.

Tip 3: It’s not all about you 

Feedback whether positive or negative tells you a lot about the person giving you feedback. In fact, it tells you more about them, their beliefs, values and expectation than it does about you. As much as you want it to be ALL about you, it’s not. Keep this in mind and take the insights you can glean from the feedback and put it to good use.

Tip 4: Take it as an opportunity 

Feedback is an opportunity to do some self-reflective and personal development work. Do the work and learn the lessons to be learnt so you can cope better next time. The higher you go, the more critical your observers will be.

Tip 5: Storytelling 

We go through life telling ourselves stories to help us make sense of everyday life. What stories are you telling yourself about the feedback? The feedback we receive will trigger some of the negative stories but be objective and try to find the positive stories in the experience as well. There are two sides to every story it’s just a matter of perception.

Tip 6: Be careful 

Be careful what you post on social media. Even with the best intentions, people still think everything you write is about them, especially when you are in regular communication with them. You’ll be amazed by the number of people who have gone through and are still going through exactly the same things you are going through now. Don’t make everything you read online about you.

Tip 7: Care or curiosity? 

I read somewhere that you need to be careful who you open up to. Few people really care, the rest are just curious. Don’t turn yourself into a talking point for other people’s coffee dates.

Tip 8: Be fair 

Know that any situation gets amplified when there is money involved. Money brings out the best and worst in people.  The bigger the amount, the more vicious and critical the feedback and criticism can be. Do your best to be fair.

Tip 9: It depends on their personal experiences 

The person giving negative feedback is not a bad person. They are just projecting their own experiences.

Tip 10: A safe space

If you keep a journal, this is a good time to go and let in all out in a safe space. Remember not everybody cares as Les Brown, the motivational speaker says, they are glad it’s your problem and not theirs.

I’m not afraid to confess that I’ve not evolved above being affected by negativity but I’m definitely getting better are containing it. At the end of the day, you cannot let the fear of being criticised, hold you back from pursuing your life ambitions. It’s a price to pay and the better you get at handling and managing the negativity, the better for all involved.

Remember that your biggest challenge in business is not the critics and the negative feedback. It’s what goes on inside your head!

I’d love to hear from you? How have you dealt with negative feedback and critics in your business and career?