Are You Afraid of Getting Negative Feedback?

I want to offer you a concept shift, a whole new way of thinking about feedback that has allowed feedback to serve me, instead of scare me.
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Perhaps you are working on speaking up more. Perhaps you are dreaming about launching that new business or nonprofit or artistic venture. Perhaps you are simply trying to be more of your authentic self and share what is truly on your mind.

In some way, you are fighting the everyday fight to step into playing a little bit bigger -- because you want the joy of it and you want to do some good in the world.

I bow to that. I'm proud of you.

We need to talk about feedback -- because playing bigger means getting feedback. I'm not just talking about the feedback you get in annual "feedback conversations" at work, or when someone says, "Um, can I give you some feedback?" I mean all kinds of feedback. The feedback that shows up in how many job interviews you get called in for -- and how many companies ignore your resume. The feedback that shows up in how many comments you get when you write a blog post, or in how many people buy what you are selling. The feedback that shows up when you say something in a meeting and it is met with awkward silence -- or when you say something and everyone responds with excitement.

If you are playing bigger, if you are sharing your voice, you are going to get more feedback that feels high stakes, because it is feedback on the real, emerging you.

This is hard.

We are tender. The toughest among us are even more tender, underneath our thick skin. We are afraid of finding out we aren't good enough. We are afraid of finding out we are more than good enough, so good that there is no reason to keep stalling, perfecting, preparing -- that it is actually time to just step onto the big stage now.

So I want to offer you a concept shift, a whole new way of thinking about feedback that has allowed feedback to serve me, instead of scare me. It has impacted the lives of the women I work with -- making them feel more comfortable hearing and incorporating tough feedback. Here it is:

Feedback does not tell you about you. It tells you about the person giving the feedback.

Let's let that sink in.Feedback does not tell you about you. It tells you about the person giving the feedback.

If you show your memoir to a writing group and three people in the group say it's boring, what does that really tell you? It tells you about what those people find boring. Does it give you any facts about the quality of your writing? Does it reveal any truths about your potential and merit as an artist? Nope. The only fact you have is about what these three people find boring. But what if tons of people think its boring? If you show your memoir to a million people, and all of them say it's boring, that still does not tell you anything about you. It tells you about what audiences find boring.

If you pitch your business idea to an investor and they aren't interested, that tells you something about what they get interested in and what they don't. It does not actually tell you anything about you or your idea.

But stay with me for part two of the idea here, because part two is important. I'm not arguing that feedback should be ignored because it doesn't tell you anything about you. No no no no no. I'm a huge proponent of gathering, listening to and incorporating feedback. It is vital.

Here's the difference: in this new paradigm, we seek out feedback not because it tells us about our own value or merit, but because it tells us whether we are reaching the people we need to reach in the way we want to. If that entrepreneur wants her pitch to be effective with investors, she needs to know what speaks to them. If that memoirist wants her work to be read widely, she needs to know what keeps a reader engaged. Most of us want to reach and influence other people with our work, our ideas. Usually, we need (or want) to reach particular people or particular types of people, and we want to influence them in particular ways.

As writers, we want the reader to learn and to enjoy. As entrepreneurs, we want the investor to invest, or the customer to buy. As healers, coaches, therapists, we want to do work that actually heals and transforms.

Feedback tells us about what is working and not for the particular people we want to reach. It gives us insight into them, not into ourselves.

Feedback doesn't tell you whether you are good enough or not, whether your ideas have merit or not. Whether you are gloriously worthy or worthless. It is not meant to give you self-esteem boosts or wounds. It gives you tactical information about how to reach who you want to reach.

Feedback is emotionally neutral information that tell us what sings to our audience, what resonates for them, what communicates clearly and what engages the people we want to engage.

Got it? If you began thinking of feedback this way, what would you do differently? Please share in the comments.

Tara Sophia Mohr is an expert on women's leadership and wellbeing. The founder and leader of the Playing Big women's leadership program, Tara is also the creator of 10 Rules for Brilliant Women, and the free, online 10 Rules for Brilliant Women Workbook. Visit to learn more

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