Transform Negative Feedback Into Positive Results in 5 Steps

Do you live on a desert island? No, I didn't think so (no internet). So, you know about negative feedback.

It's a part of life.

People will always have different opinions. The question is not how to avoid negative feedback, but how to respond, and to learn.

There is always a better way to respond to negative feedback, let's say a "purer" way. These 5 steps will help you improve relationships with colleagues, friends and family, and develop your career.

If you get negative feedback
  1. Pause, don't react
  2. Understand the other person
  3. Reply well
  4. Evaluate if the feedback is correct
  5. Recognize the positive in the negative

1) Pause, don't react

The first, natural reaction is self-defence. Did you ever say: “No, this isn’t true!” “You’re wrong.” “No, that’s because…”?

However, no matter how negative the comment, you have a choice. Defending yourself says more about you than about the comment itself. So, stay calm and composed and you will react in a better way. If you are feeling nervous, take a few moments, breathe in and out before responding.

In a conversation, try to pause for a few seconds to process the feedback in your mind. And for an email, take a day or day. You will find that when you read the same comments at different times, your emotional reaction will be different, too.

2) Understand the other person

Every feedback, negative or positive, comes from somewhere, from something you said or did. Of course, you can decide to ignore it, but then you’ll never know the cause and it's very possible the same will happen again in the future with worse consequences next time.

Use active listening to understand the other person. Sometimes, the person may say ‘I don’t think this is done well’ or ‘I don’t like how you are doing this’, without a good explanation. This doesn’t mean you should ignore the feedback. It is always possible the person hasn't analyzed why they feel as they do, or maybe they don't want to say why. It is for you to investigate and discover the truth.

3) Reply well

Reply with kindness. The person who gave the feedback took time to share their opinion. Take time to reply with care and always say thank you. You can check if you understood by summarizing the feedback, but it may not be appropriate to say if you agree or disagree in this first moment. Remember, try not to criticize the criticism!

4) Evaluate if the feedback is correct

Evaluate objectively. Is it true? Should you investigate? Sometimes, it's difficult to be objective. In these cases, you could ask a friend or colleague for a second opinion. Different points of view can help to maintain objectivity.

5) Recognize the positive in the negative

When people don't care, they usually don't give their opinions. Negative feedback means that there are people who want you to be better, people who care. No matter where we are in life, we all have blind spots. Negative feedback may not be nice to hear, but it gives us different perspectives that can help us to grow.

Sometimes (usually!), negative feedback can cause an uncomfortable emotional response. Accept it. Your reaction help you to realize something that deep down you already knew.

There is always something to be learned from every feedback.

  • What did I learn about myself?
  • What did I learn about others?
  • How can I improve? What can I do differently?

Your learning can be about (i) the feedback (ii) how you respond and process feedback (iii) or both.


It isn't always easy to process negative feedback in a positive way, but if you learn this art, people will be happier to help you, and they will help you more. And that, surely, is a good thing.

Useful vocabulary (click word for definition)

to avoid
to deal with
no matter

Adapted from an article on 
written by  Celestine Chua

Balancing praise and criticism

Benji gives his advice
Review of the bestseller