The Impact of Negative Feedback

I’ve had what you could call writer’s 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 had delayed.

As you can notice on the blog, I haven’t been publishing regularly for the last month, I couldn’t say I was too 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, whether presenting a business idea, a film homework for the film classes, some faculty project, or even a short sketch at Recitiri, got criticized. And not only criticized 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 power someone uses to provide 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 positive ones.

Another explanation is the obsession with performance: you must try hard to improve it. 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 positively. Still, I have only accumulated a lot of resentment, 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, 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 from the past month.

I presented a business idea at Open Coffee about three weeks ago. About a dozen people were trying to tell me why that project won’t work as a business. Then, at the next Open Coffee meeting, Geeta said to me about a site that had just 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, which is another extreme (and dangerous) consideration. Still, specifically about myself, I have been proven right repeatedly. So 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), and a colleague accused 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 most parts of 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 these 2 years of master’s degree will end, it is very likely that I will know more than my colleagues. Therefore, in the 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 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 the moderator (Dragoş Butuzea).

I thought maybe writing about this on the blog there would be a risk for someone to think I’m depressed. I am not. Or perhaps 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 has lived 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 because I have some respect and manners and 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 thoroughly deserved it and publicly got fried. It’s easy to consider me a nice guy. I’m not.

I figured most people over-adapt and don’t become aware of this mechanism. “Oh, it’s OK to get told repeatedly what doesn’t work sarcastically”. Or some others develop 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 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 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 criticizing, I might make you acknowledge it, and you won’t like it.”

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

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

Marcus Victor Grant

Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant 2009-present, all rights reserved.

The materials on this blog are subject to this disclaimer.


4 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. Howdy! Someone in my Myspace group shared this site with us so I came to look it over. I’m definitely loving the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Exceptional blog and superb style and design.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.