The Impact of Negative Feedback

I’ve had what you could call a writers’ block for a month. I couldn’t write almost anything. I couldn’t write business plans, master’s degree projects, blog posts, film homework, not even e-mails I have delayed.

As you can notice on the blog, I haven’t been publishing regularly and in the last month, at all. I couldn’t say I was to busy to do it, but there’s another fact that got on my nerves lately (generally, not about blogging).

Any initiative I had this fall, may it be presenting a business idea, or a film homework for the film classes or some faculty project, or even a short sketch at Recitiri, got criticised. And not only criticised, but also mocked – in some environments I have not claimed perfection, but from which I expected suggestions and directions to learn.

Please compare the intensity with which someone gives negative feedback to the intensity someone uses to give positive feedback. Usually, according to John Parr (a great transactional analyst), the intensity ratio is 5:1 for negative:positive. Why? Just imagine. When you hear someone say “I hate you”, how intense is it, compared to “I love you”? We usually put more energy into negative messages than in positive ones.

Another explanation is the obsession for performance: you have to try hard to make it better. Perfect. It’s excellent that everyone tells you what’s not working. But what DOES work? No time for that.

I rallied to this strive for performance, trying to use all the critics and suggestions in a positive way, but I have only accumulated a lot of resentment, to which I do not find correct to cast upon others. Other people don’t have to suffer because someone gave me the negative energy I couldn’t take. In the meantime, it’s also true I’m only human.

If the 5:1 ratio statement is correct than we need 5 positive strokes for each negative stroke. What happens if you get a lot of negative strokes and not one positive stroke?

I will give you a few examples of this, from the past month.

I presented a business idea at Open Coffee about three weeks ago. There were about a dozen of people that were trying to tell me why that project won’t work as a business. At the next Open Coffee, Geea told me about a site that just got launched a month ago applying one of the main ideas for the projects I presented.  And I remembered what Vlad Stan said at NetCamp , that if you believe in your idea, nobody can tell you it’s not going to work but yourself.

That doesn’t mean I recommend that each person believes in their projects not considering the feedback, that is another extreme (and dangerous) consideration, but specifically about myself, I have been proven right time and time again. It would be appropriate to trust my intuition more.

I presented last week at the master’s degree a study on burnout. My colleagues got tired and wanted to go home earlier (as if they couldn’t remember the seminar ends at 8, not at 7.30 PM), a colleague accusing me I don’t know how to manage my time. Then I asked the teacher what she thought of the presentation and she said it was OK. It’s just that the most part of the HR students at SNSPA are there to get a shiny diploma and not really learn anything.

What I learned from this experience, together with participating in another seminar with a different group (where I was accused of putting too many questions to the teacher), was that by the time that these 2 years of masters’ degree will end, it is very likely that I will know more than my colleagues. In a long-term, I will become a better HR specialist in the Romanian HR market than they will be. And it’s not a matter of experience, it’s just a matter of interest.

As for the film classes, I have settled the things through a “friendly chat” with the teacher via e-mail. And for Recitiri, I have sent my explanation about my absence to the founder (Sorin Tudor) and to the moderator (Dragoş Butuzea).

I thought maybe writing about this on the blog there would be the risk for someone to think I’m depressed. I am not. Or maybe some might think: “Oh, get over it!” – the “try hard” message. Or maybe I’m supposed to get more positive strokes? Some moral support? Well, yes. But I’m not so afraid to write about what I think, considering maybe some won’t like what I write – they will give me negative feedback or won’t understand, etc.

I DO need moral support and I DO want positive strokes. My mother, who lives in Italy since 2004, says the Romanian Society is ill of negative criticism, transmitted in a sarcastic manner which creates interpersonal conflict. Well, HRD, based on their study on Romanian mentality in 2006, comes to the same conclusion (just read the first 4 arguments).

Just because I have some respect and manners and I don’t always publicly reply, doesn’t mean I’m ignorant of this. I usually don’t react to challenges and I like to avoid conflicts. Equally, each time I have tried conclusions with somebody (there must have been 5-6 times in the last 6 years), they fully deserved it and publicly got fried. It’s easy to consider me a nice guy. I’m not.

I figured that most people overadapt, don’t really become aware of this mechanism. “Oh, it’s OK to get told over and over again what doesn’t work in a sarcastic manner”. Or some others develop a strong confidence in their ideas without checking them out, because everybody gives them negative strokes when searching for feedback. I think both tendencies are wrong. They’re dichotomic. Black and white.

Therefore, my message to the world is: “Just because I ask for your suggestions and your feedback, doesn’t mean that I have to take all the shit you want to get rid of or pass over. When I ask your opinion it doesn’t mean that I’m wrong and you’re right, or that I’m stupid and you’re smart. It doesn’t mean I will do what you say or consider it correct or applicable. It just means I want some feedback. And from now on, if you don’t know the distinction between feedback and pulling someone’s leg and criticising, I might make you acknowledge it and you won’t like it.”

Thank you to all of the readers of this post that over time gave me feedback without criticizing me with sarcasm. I believe in learning from putting questions and gathering opinion on how to improve myself and my writing (especially my blogging, since I’m a beginner). I believe the best way to express my vision will gather the best means with your help.

If you’ve liked this article and you agree with the attitude I’ve stated, please feel free to pay it forward or to re-tweet the link. Thank you.


11 thoughts on “The Impact of Negative Feedback

  1. Good point :) Today a professor from ASE ,who is an important consultant in the business area, just brought to our attention that the students are really mean to one another and not supporting any good idea, and it`s all about criticizing and mocking. For him also this is a wrong attitude. My point is the same: who can point finger when we are just people trying to act as perfect ?


  2. My relatives all the time say that I am wasting my time here at net, but I
    know I am getting know-how daily by reading such good content.


  3. […] Critica este binevenită atunci când poate fi folosită şi este intenţionată cu scop de îmbunătăţire. Nu vreau să fac aici apologia diferenţei între critică şi feed-back. Vreau doar să spun că, din experienţa mea, în momentul în care critica încetează, însemnă că am făcut ceva foarte rău… şi acesta este momentul în care am cea mai mare nevoie de critică! Un om de succes este unul care s-a construit pe sine şi din pietrele cu care au aruncat alţii după el. Sensibilitatea (excesivă) nu-şi are locul în bună tovărăşenie cu dorinţa de învăţare, pentru că, dacă vreau să învăţ, atunci e bine să pun sensibilitatea la o parte. Desigur, nu spun prin aceasta că trebuie să accept să devin ciuca bătăilor celorlalţi ca să fiu acceptat sau ca să învăţ. Am scris un alt articol util despre feed-back-ul negativ. […]


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