Believe it or not, back in the day, I was an eBay powerseller. I sold the crap out of stuff, and I made some money doing it. The thing I sold the most of was screen protectors for PDAs. You remember those things right? Kinda the ugly, huge, clunky 3rd cousin of the smart phone. I worked really hard at it, and my reward (besides the money) was feedback from my faithful followers.
Now, some of the feedback I can’t share because to be honest, I didn’t make everyone happy, and sometimes unhappy people who are hidden behind their computer screen can be pretty negative. But negative feedback, in anything, but especially eBay, can wreck what you’re trying to accomplish. I wish I could say I never retaliated by leaving negative feedback of my own, but I did on occasion stoop to the lower levels. One in particular that I thought was quite brilliant, the buyer gave me a neutral (which is a throw-away negative that doesn’t actually count) and said “Bad bad seller. Very bad.” My reply, “$2.99 delivered as promised – get a life.”
Ok, not all that brilliant, and kinda snarky right? Thing is, nobody really likes negative (or neutral, as if there is such a thing) feedback. How do you deal with feedback that you consider to be negative?
Myself, I tend to do several things when I get negative feedback. The first is I get angry. And it’s a righteous kind of anger, which if you think about it is the best kind. It’s the “I’m *not* wrong here” anger that starts in your spleen and rises to your lips (bypassing the brain by several inches) and gets you into even more trouble.
Then there’s sulking, which I am also known to do from time to time. This is a result of feedback I receive from my wife while I am driving and she is a passenger. She is a back seat driver, a side seat driver, a from the trunk driver – where ever a person can be in the vehicle, that’s the kind of driver she is. She’ll be chatting away while I’m trying to find a particular exit and when I pass it inadvertently, she lets me know about it then I just sit in awkward silence for a few minutes.
I don’t do this (nope), but some people throw actual fits when they get some negative feedback. I see this at work sometimes around the time for our yearly review. People go into a room looking normal, 45 minutes later they come out red in the face, spit bubbles in the corner of their mouths, and they go straight to the bathroom where they abuse the snot out of the stall doors, the toilet, the paper towel dispenser and their hands and feet.
Again, I have never done anything like that in my life.
What is an appropriate response to feedback? I have a few ideas there, too.
First we can consider that there is truth in the feedback. The stuff I sold on eBay was junk. I made the screen protectors at home with overhead projector sheets that I printed out a template on and cut out with scissors. And seriously I sold 1000′s of them. But they were junk and when people called me on it, what could I do? I knew it, they knew it and there it was. There is always a nugget of truth that you can use to make yourself better.
Another thing to consider is, who are you going to listen to? There are a lot of voices coming at us every day, but not all the feedback is worth listening to. We need to be discerning, especially as Christians. Whose voice carries the most weight? A pastor, a mentor, an aquaintance with an admitted substance abuse problem? We need to receive it all graciously, but not all of it needs to stick.
Then, when we have found the truth from people we can actually trust, we need to use feedback to make positive changes. There have been many times in my life when a person told me something in anger, and it was truly negative, but it was also true, even though the words hurt. There have been times when a trusted friend pulled me aside and told me how big a mistake I was making or about to make. In those situations, when we know what is right, we should decide to heed those words and make a course correction.
Not all feedback will be positive or negative. When it’s received, we need to consider the source, think critically about ourselves, pray about it, then make a choice – is this something I can use to make a positive change, or do I need to just let this one go?
What are some ways you deal with feedback?