Want to know what’s better than a mass-produced participation trophy? Honest feedback about your performance.
Nobody needs to hear cliches or generalities—“great job,” “nice effort,” “make some adjustments and get ‘em next time.” Statements like “you tried your best” are empty calories. They offer no real value. Adults don’t get a gold star just for showing up.
Instead, seek constructive feedback that points to specific examples and offers ways to improve—even if it’s not what you want to hear.
It’s natural to get defensive when given any type of feedback that isn’t glowing, but it’s important not to shut down. Keep an open mind, watch your body language, and listen instead of immediately responding.
Here are five reasons negative feedback can be the best fuel you need to improve.
It builds thick skin.
Curls build bicep muscles. Running on an incline strengthens calves. You wouldn’t do these exercises for a week and expect results. The same concept applies to developing a thick skin.
Surround yourself with people who hold you accountable. Set aside time on a regular basis to ask for feedback. Do things that put your work out in the open and make you susceptible to critiques.
A thick skin can take away some of the sting of negative, or even hurtful, feedback. It’s the secret to a strong Spartan armor.
It helps you self correct.
Negative feedback causes stress which switches on our body’s flight or fight response. Use these opportunities to observe yourself in the moment. Are your instincts to get angry and blow up? Do you shut down and wall off? Do you try to deny and divert the blame?
Use negative feedback as a mirror into how you handle difficult situations and relationships. If you’re self aware, you can correct behavior that might not be in your best interest.
It wakes your ass up.
Maybe you slipped into a routine. Your last performance was solid. You are well-liked by your coworkers or peers. You are comfortable. But once you get comfortable, you start slipping. Negative feedback can provide the boost you need to get back in gear.
If we won’t disrupt ourselves, someone else will. Be thankful for people who tell you you’re not doing your best.
It can incite big changes.
Servers ask if you liked your meal. Hotels ask you to review your stay. Heck, every receipt I get has a link to a survey asking for my opinion.
Everyone is asking, or should be asking, for feedback because they want to get better. Take the suggestions as motivation to make the changes needed to reach your peak.
It’s shared wisdom
Lessons come not only from specific feedback, but from the person delivering it. A different perspective can pinpoint your blind spots. Don’t get defensive. If someone really wants you to fail, they won’t say anything at all.
If you are training for a Spartan Race and notice someone repeatedly attempt an obstacle and fail, chances are you’ll step in with some advice to help them through it.
Negative feedback is a learning opportunity, so use it to learn.