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Embrace Negative Feedback as a Learning Opportunity

Losing an opportunity is a form of negative feedback. Missing your number is a form of negative feedback too. Sometimes your performance review might include a component of negative feedback.

No one likes negative feedback. I don’t like it, and you don’t like it. But negative feedback is a necessary component of improving your performance. The negative feedback you receive from any number of sources is an opportunity to learn from what you’re doing, an opportunity to make adjustments to what you’re doing in the future, and to produce better results.

The Fast Track to Improvement

As difficult as it might seem, embracing negative feedback as a learning opportunity is the fast track to improving your performance. As long as you’re emotionally intelligent enough to accept that feedback, to learn from it, and to make the necessary adjustments.

When you lose an opportunity, it hurts. You want to believe it wasn’t your fault. You want to believe that it was the client who was at fault for not understanding the value you create. We want to believe that it’s your competitors that did something unfair by cutting their pricing. But when you lose, it’s another salesperson that wins that opportunity. Without accepting responsibility for the loss you can’t get better.

A lost opportunity is a form of negative feedback. There’s a lesson in there for you somewhere.

Missing You Number, Gaining an Education

Missing your number is another form of negative feedback. If what you’re presently doing isn’t going to produce the number, then you need to make the changes that will allow you to perform better and produce better results.

Missing your number is another form of negative feedback. There is a lesson to be learned from missing your number, but you have to be willing to capture that lesson and you have to be willing to change.

Now you know what doesn’t work. What you need to change?

Your Performance Review

There’s a reason of the top performers and any human endeavor have coaches. They can’t see their own swing. Your performance review may be based on numbers, but some component is going to be your sales managers opinion of what the obstacles to better performance are for you.

As difficult as it is to accept negative feedback, an open heart and an open mind will give you the opportunity to look at what you’re doing through someone else’s eyes. It takes courage to acknowledge that your performance isn’t what it should be. It takes emotional intelligence to accept criticism from someone else. But negative feedback on your performance, whether it comes quarterly, annually, or even informally, can help you identify the changes you need to make in order to perform better.

Negative feedback, as painful as it may be, is a learning opportunity. The more you open you are to the message it’s teaching you, the faster you will improve your performance.


What negative feedback have you received recently?

What lesson did you derive from the negative feedback?

What did you learn from the last opportunity you lost?

What was your take away from missing your number the last time you missed it?

How do you learn to accept a negative feedback without being reflexively defensive?

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  • Ryan Biddulph

    Excellent post Anthony! Negative feedback reveals blind spots the ego created to protect itself.

    I have learned this: whatever feedback stings the most sets me free, every time. In the moment I am pissed, maybe a few minutes later, or if I am really annoyed a few hours later.

    When I calm down I realize that I agreed with the person’s statement on some level. The statement was true to me, so I felt hurt. Then, I can regress my cursing the person out, in mind mind, or I can progress and grow by improving from the feedback. Always my choice.


    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Ryan! We’re all human. The little reptile brain deep at the base of our spine is easily threatened. But, you’re right, you do have to listen, and you do have to grow. Even if it stings. Maybe especially when it stings.

  • BC

    Since we know how we all feel about receiving negative feedback, as we become leaders in an organization we should work more on how to improve the process of delivering it to others. Better and agreed-to goal-setting (achievable, measurable, etc.), more interactive time with folks to help shape their process and impact their outcomes *before* they stray too far from a smart path (regular checkpoints, reviewing progress), and appropriately positioning negative results in a learning environment context — identifying what isn’t working as a step toward new thinking and a new approach.

    And conversely, there should be equal (maybe more!) efforts to celebrate the positives so everyone knows what that “feels” like — otherwise how does anyone know what they’re striving for?

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I don’t disagree, Bill. I’ve written a number of post suggesting the same. But when you do have to take the inevitable negative feedback that helps to turn it into something positive.

  • Christine Steffensen

    You can learn from negative feedback and improve in ways to avoid the same result. We are only human. We can’t avoid mistakes. Negative feedback is sometimes painful but it help us change and become better.

  • Victoria

    Feedback, positive or negative, is invaluable for evaluating and constantly improving processes. Negative feedback can be a hit to the ego, and it can be difficult not to take it personally. In B2B marketing, it is imperative to analyse the message and the subsequent course of action required to rectify any issues.