Divas, I am going to agree with you right now that negative feedback sucks. It is hard to hear that we did not meet expectations or that we fell short. And you know what? Our egos just don’t like that. No matter how much work we do on it, how good we want to be about acceptance and things like that, negative feedback can be very challenging.
So we’re doing a Micro Action Monday about how to deal with negative feedback. Let’s begin with the first aspect I would like you to consider. First ask, “should I take this in?” Think about when you receive negative feedback. We don’t always take in every piece of feedback. Sometimes when we receive negative feedback, it doesn’t really have to do with us or the situation.
Your Micro Action for today is to practice dealing with negative feedback.
I’m not focusing so much on that in this post, but I do wanna mention that first. It is important to decide whether or not the feedback is worthy of accepting. Sometimes you say, (like the amazing Elyse Meyers suggests), “I do not receive that.” You, metaphorically, set the advice back in the giver’s court and say to yourself, “I won’t be taking that into account because it’s not coming from a reliable source.” It may be because the advice or feedback is not coming from someone who has your best intentions at heart. Or, they may not have a deep experience in the field or even general experience in the field. When you get negative feedback, you need to interrogate the source of it. Then, ask yourself, “is this someone from whom I am willing to take feedback?”
Forgive yourself and others, as needed
In a lot of cases, yes. If this is a person you trust and respect their opinion, what do we do then? When you decide that you are going to hear, you are gonna take in this negative feedback, what do you do with that? First of all, I always recommend a forgiveness practice for yourself. And, sometimes you will need to forgive this other person. Sometimes people deliver negative feedback in a way that is useful, but they do it in a way that’s also very hurtful. And so, you can forgive them for, for hurtful feedback, even if it’s also useful or actionable feedback.
But also forgive yourself. Take a moment and say, “I recognize that this feedback is valuable even if it is negative or it stings to hear this. I forgive myself for not living up to our shared expectations, and I’m going to make use of this feedback so that I can do better in future scenarios and experiences.” Okay, so we’re started there. We forgave ourselves for not living up to our own standards or our own expectations.
Parse the feedback for understanding
Next, I want you to parse the feedback. What exactly are they talking about in this case? It’s important that we truly understand the feedback that we’re being given. I have seen this particular aspect go awry with many younger students. They may receive constructive criticism in a competition setting. As soon as they hear the feedback, they take the feedback to mean something completely different. Instead of hearing that they may need to work on their rhythmic accuracy, they interpret negative feedback as a story they’re telling themselves such as, “oh no, I’m never going to be a musician the way I want to.” Part of what we need to practice is taking in feedback and understanding it correctly so that we can make more effective and powerful choices.
When parsing the feedback, ask yourself,
- “What exactly is the feedback about? Is it about pitch tone, timbre, phrasing, quality, etc.?”
- “Is this related to a technical demand that you are working on?”
- “Is this an issue that I’m already aware of or am I experiencing this feedback for the first time?”
- “Are there any actionable steps that this person is suggesting to deal with the issue they’ve identified?”
- “Do I have a roadmap to deal with this information?”
So that’s how we’re starting to parse that feedback.
If you can’t repeat the feedback clearly to the person giving the feedback or another trusted individual, you may need to ask for clarification if possible.
Go to a trusted resource
I think understanding the true nature of the feedback can often be challenging. This is especially true when the person giving the information seems to think that they know what it’s related to and that might not always be accurate.
For example, say that they’re talking about intonation. You might have received feedback like this at least once in your life. The person giving the feedback thinks that the intonation issue is present because you “can’t hear it.” But actually, the intonation is caused by a technical issue instead. It is exactly for reasons such as that, that you need to discuss negative feedback with your trusted resources. You can say,
- “I’m getting X type of feedback regularly. What might be the many reasons that’s happening?”
- “Can I work on multiple routes, multiple processes to try and alleviate the situation or change what I’m experiencing?”
I bring up the intonation example purposefully because I would run into this frequently. Other professionals would give my students feedback such as, “you’re going flat in this section and you just need to open your mouth more.” However, that action step might not be the thing my student needed help with but that was the go-to advice of that other professional. That is why it’s important to not only parse the information, but then interrogate the information.
With the help of your trusted resources, you might get more and better information about the best action step to go along with the feedback you were given.
Interrogate the feedback
Let’s try another example. Perhaps you’re getting negative feedback about your stage presence and they mention something specifically about “charisma”. And you took that pretty hard because you said, “wow, I really worked on that.” Instead of dwelling on the hurt feelings, let’s try to work through these steps.
- Parsing = they’re talking about stage presence and specifically something like charisma.
- Interrogate = “What do I think might be leading to this bit of feedback?”
- Also, “What makes charisma?’
- Or, “What are some things that I’m doing that might be falling flat in the performance?”
- And, “Can I work on facial expression, body language, intensity, etc?”
- Action step = I’m going to practice doing different versions of body language with this piece, or I’m going to practice really engaging my face and I’m going to practice this specifically by using a mirror or whatever.
- Trusted resource = “Can you give me more information about what you think lends itself to stage presence and charisma?”
- “What are some strategies or other tools you know about for working on stage presence?”
- “How seriously should I take this feedback about stage presence?”
When you’re experiencing negative feedback, remember, it’s literally part of the process all the time. There will be months and years where you will get this regularly. Also, pause here for a second to really take this in… if people don’t give you constructive criticism, they’re writing you off.
If you’re getting feedback, it means that people care
So if you’re getting this, take this as the most like outrageous reframing of this, which is people care. If someone else expresses to you that they want more out of what you’re doing, there is a desire for you to be even more effective as a musician and a performer. That might be rough to hear, at times, but also internalize the positive element as much as you can. “They care enough about me and what I’m doing that they want to help me get better.” That gives you an opportunity to say, “Okay, I hear you. Thank you for this belief in my ability to get better at these things.” Then, go through your process… Forgive yourself and the other person as necessary. Parse the situation, interrogate, and then make an action plan.
Divas, I know that negative feedback can be really hard to take in. But also, don’t think that it’s one and done either. This process is very applicable to any time we have internal or external negative feedback showing up in our lives. Sometimes we hear voices in our heads for much longer than they’re actually relevant. You might still be holding on to the negative feedback from, oh, your first teacher, or, you know, someone that you knew in college, or that person that you worked with like 10 shows ago, or whatever it is.
You might still be hearing the words even when you have changed your behavior, changed your production, or when this is no longer an issue for you. So after a while, just keep checking back in with this process and ask, “is this still relevant information to where I am right now?”
Is past negative feedback still relevant?
We’re growing. We’re changing all the time. We’re getting better at what we do. You may not need to hang on to that piece of negative feedback that you heard years ago. Maybe you’ve done the process and can release it now and say “thank you for helping me learn these skills, get better, and arrive at this stage of knowledge and experience in my career.”
That’s our acceptance part. Years later, you might say, “Wow, you know what? This piece of negative feedback has been haunting me for years because I assumed that it was still relevant. So I’ve been working on it forever, working on it and working on it, and then one day you realize actually, I’ve done a lot of meaningful work in this area, and I’ve gotten better. My skills are better here. Thank you to that piece of negative feedback, but also, I can release its power over what I’m doing now. I’m not gonna get rid of those practice strategies or those skills. I’m gonna keep incorporating those. That’s the part that’s the beneficial part. I got those because I had this negative experience and I brought more strategies into my life.”
You don’t have to keep beating yourself up with something a random person said like 10 years ago. Give yourself the gift of closure on negative feedback from the past that’s no longer relevant because you actually took action.
All right, divas, as always, stay sparkly inside and out.