89. How to Take Negative Feedback, Positively

All throughout your life, you will be confronted with negative feedback. But criticism doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Learning how to take critical feedback is critical to earning where we need to improve in all sorts of areas in our life. Today, Connor and Brittany talk about how you can put a positive spin on seemingly unpleasant conversations.

Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Brittany: Hi Connor.

Connor: Hey, Brittany.

Brittany: So, as a writer, it’s really important to me to be the absolute best when I am writing. You know, I wanna be the best writer I can be. And I’m sure you can kind of relate to this too, cuz you write as well. But in order for me to keep improving and getting really good at my craft or, really anything I do, whether it’s piano or singing or writing, I kind of have to be able to take some negative feedback. And by negative feedback, I mean, instead of someone telling you how great you did at something, maybe they’ll tell you, you know, you did good at this part, but you really need to work on this other part. So it’s kind of being able to take this, negative criticism or, the things you’re not so great at. But this is really important because when you want to get good at something, you have to be able to recognize, you know, where your strengths and where your weaknesses are. But I know for me at least, sometimes criticism’s a little bit hard to take, sometimes it might even hurt my feelings, but being able to take negative feedback positively is kind of a key part to being successful, end up being an adult. But I dunno about you, Connor. Have you had experiences with either receiving or maybe even giving some negative feedback?

Connor: It’s an interesting question. because now as kind of an employer running our own organization, yeah, I’m in a position to have to give other people critical feedback. So it’s made me think a bit about how I like to get feedback, and as a dad, I think about how I can help my kids, right? Sometimes they might feel like I’m picking on them or being mean to them by pointing out something they did wrong. But what I have to try and teach them is, look, it comes from a place of love. I actually want you to be better and do better. And so I’m pointing out a problem so that you can correct it in the future that’s gonna make you a better person. you’re gonna, you know, like yourself more, you’re gonna do better, etcetera, etcetera. And so you gotta understand it’s not trying to just be mean, right? It’s not like you’re, you’re awful. You know? Like, that was horrible, right? It’s like, no, well look, you know, that wasn’t as good as it could be. Let’s try better next time. Let’s try something differently. So I think a lot of it depends in how we kind of frame our, remarks. In other words, how we, let’s see what’s a good way to do it. Like how we try and present the criticism.

Brittany: Yep.

Connor: If clearly, if you have like an angry tone of voice, or if you’re loud, or if you’re pointing your finger at the other birthday or you know, stuff like that, clearly it’s not gonna be taken well. But if you sit down in a very calm discussion like, Hey, look, I wanna talk to you about this. I totally get it. Like, I’ve made similar mistakes in the past, or, you know, I understand why this happened. Let’s talk about how we can improve in the future. That’s a much calmer discussion where the other person can see, oh yeah, this person, you know, cares about me and wants me to do better. And so you’re right, like I think you pointed out right, sometimes, it might hurt our feelings still a little bit, right? Like even if it’s said from a place of love. But, I think that’s the best we can do because, you know, if if we’re not being criticized, if people aren’t pointing out what we’re doing wrong, we’re, really not gonna have the opportunity to improve.

Brittany: No. They talk about, participation trophies. This is not as big of a deal right now, but it used to be all people talked about that millennials, you know, we’re kind of coddled. They were kind of, you know, overprotected and a lot of that was cuz we kept getting compliments, right? Instead of saying, you didn’t do this so well, people were so scared to give people negative feedback. They were so worried it was gonna ruin their self-esteem. There was this big self-esteem movement in the 1980s where people thought that they had to be, you know, really, really, really nice to kids and that maybe that would help them do better in their futures. But it kind of had the opposite effect because now we were, I don’t wanna say we, cuz I don’t feel like I was raised necessarily that way, but a lot of people in my age group are raised where their parents were constantly giving them compliments and then they never got better at anything. And I know as a writer, for me, when I first started as a writer, I wasn’t very good, right? I mean, I, was still had some good talents. There were some raw talent there, but I had to keep practicing and I had to be edited. I had to get a lot of sometimes negative feedback telling me like, you know, your, pros, which is kind of like the sound, the way you write, the way, it’s like making writing sound pretty, is kind of what I think of with pros, right? But I had to work on that, right? I had editors tell me like Nope, you know, you’re, really good, but you still need to work on this and this and this. And in the beginning I used to actually cry when I got edited. I would get very upset, But you have to learn very quickly as a writer, like, okay, like if I wanna get better, I need to take this to heart and I need to take their advice and get better at this.

Connor: Well, imagine Brittany, if your editor just,  you know, wrote or like having a teacher, right? It’s one thing to write like a plus or C minus on the top of the paper and then give it back to the person. But if there’s no feedback, then you don’t know what you did right? And what you did wrong or, what you can improve on. It’s the feedback, the specific, you know, critiques, we can call them criticisms, but that kind of has a negative. Yeah, it does, doesn’t it connotation. So they’re, critiques or, analyses, right? If you point that out, like when I edit things for people on our team in, Google Docs is kind of like Microsoft Word. So they, have similar things, but when we’re typing things in Google Docs, there’s actually a mode called suggestion mode. And I like editing using that because I could go into the document, the article that my colleague wrote, and I could just make the changes I think are necessary. But then that is depriving that other person of an opportunity to see why I’m doing what I did. And so what I like to do is in suggestion mode, I still do the edits, but what it does is it leaves their writing alone and then it kind of puts mine on top of it, right? So they can kind of see before and after. And I can even leave comments and like, okay, hey, here’s why I did this. I want to help you understand, oh, you’re, you’re using passive voice instead of active voice or things like that. And then I can learn and then improve, you know, with my kids. my kids right now are 11 and nine and a few months ago I started, I added another assignment to their little homeschooling regimen. And, I’ve now had them working on persuasive writing.

Brittany: Ooh.

Connor: And so every week, they’re required to pick a topic and we kinda help them think up ideas and, they have to write a persuasive, essay about them. Obviously they’re young, so these are simplistic essays, but, you know, you gotta have a hook to get the reader’s interest and you gotta make a thesis. And then you gotta have a few arguments in there as to why your thesis, your, argument is correct. And then you have to back up each of those little three arguments with kind of an explanation. You can’t just say, I think Christmas is the best holiday because you get presents, right? It’s like, well, no, you need to then explain with one or two sentences more why. Like, and, getting presents is good because that means, you know, I have things to play with and I have good memories of the people who gave them to me. Like you, you have to kind of explain it more. And then you have your conclusion and you know, summarize it at the end. And so I’ve been helping my kids like, understand, here’s the format and here’s why this is so important. It’s not just an assignment for you to do this. this is how you will be successful later in life if you can figure out how to write well and write persuasively you’re gonna be able to defend, for example, the ideas of liberty against all the crazy socialists out there. Yeah. Or you’re gonna be able to defend to your boss why you should get a raise. Right? Like imagine if you have a persuasive, you know, little essay or email right? To, a potential customer for your business. Hey, I want you to do business with us and pay us all this money. Here’s why I think, you know, that would be most effective. Maybe you’re gonna fundraise and you need to tell some rich person why they ought to give you their money. Like, there’s so many areas of our life where persuasion is important. Why do I mention all of that? Because with my young kids, now that we’re starting, it would be a disservice to them if I just said, Hey, great job. I liked that. And then we leave it alone and move on till, you know, the next weeks. Like that’s not at all going to help them. Maybe they would improve just slowly over time by virtue of the fact that they’re getting older, they’re reading more, right? They’re kind of seeing other examples.

Brittany: Yeah.

Connor: They can kind of, through osmosis, incorporate that into their own writing. But no, like, I want to give them direct feedback. So I’ll sit down with them and say, well, you know what? You need an additional sentence here and here’s why. Right? Or here, like, your hook isn’t really engaging. Let’s brainstorm some ideas about how to make a more engaging hook. What what is it that makes an engaging hook to get someone’s attention? And little bit by little bit throughout their lives as we kind of talk about these tiny little ideas, they’re going to improve and remember those things and apply and practice and become much better in life. And so it is through the criticisms that we improve, like you pointed out, and when you were first getting those criticism, it’s hard, it’s a challenge, especially when it’s from someone that you know, maybe isn’t a family member. someone you respect.

Brittany: even someone that you look up to. Yeah. Then it almost like hurts extra bad

Connor: Right, Right. you know, and so we have to work through that, but you have to recognize that that is the greatest opportunity. There was a book that I was skimming just the other day, I’m trying to remember, the title’s name was something like The Obstacle is The Way.

Brittany: Yeah.

Connor: And, the whole point is like a lot of people in life want to take the path of least resistance, right? They wanna, they wanna find the shortcuts. they wanna avoid obstacles. And the thesis of this book is that the obstacle is the way, in other words, the hard things are the greatest things in life. That is the way you should go. You should not avoid hard things. You should actually directly take them on because those are the areas where you are gonna grow as a person and do better and have far more success and be more fulfilled in your own life. just last night, I’m gonna throw it back to you after Brittany, after this Brittany, I realize I’ve been talking for a bit, but a stream of consciousness, a lot of these thoughts are coming out for me. Just last night I was talking with my daughter and, she, her grandma, my mom, offered to pay her a bit of money if she memorized this little, essay. And,

Brittany: How many words? like when you say little essay.

Connor: Oh, I’m trying to, it’s like one page.

Brittany: Okay.

Connor: And, it’s a religious thing. And so she wanted my daughter to kind of learn about this stuff. And so she offered to pay her a bit of money. And my daughter just last night was like, I need money. You know, like, I, wanna buy, in her case, it’s a hoverboard, I guess they’re called right? And so she’s been saving up and she needs some more money. So we’re like, Hey, you could, you can memorize this. And initially for her it was, ugh, like, that’s gonna be so hard. I can’t do it. I can’t memorize. Well, and so we talked through like why it’s important to have confidence, why it’s, you know, important to not be critical of yourself to think that you can do it. And then just this morning I got a message from her saying that she’s already a quarter of the way done because she drifted that mindset. And, being open to that opportunity for feedback and knowing that we can do hard things. The obstacle is the way, like we’re going to improve if we are open to criticisms and open to doing hard things, that I think is where we have the most growth in our lives.

Brittany: I’m glad you said that cuz you actually reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from a podcaster I love named Tim Ferris. He’s also an author, but he says, and one of his books, A Person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have. And I really like that because anytime you have somebody giving you, you know, negative feedback, it is sometimes uncomfortable, right? It’s not great. But through that uncomfort, through that obstacle, as you call it, that’s how we really start to grow. You know, every time it’s like video games, you level up, you know, the term level up. every time you do something hard and you get through it, like you’re just a little bit stronger. And that’s what’s so cool about getting negative feedback is it ultimately just helps you be the best version of yourself you can be. And who wouldn’t wanna be that? The first time I did standup comedy, I went up and I had somebody take notes of all the things that, you know, she took notes of when people laughed. So I knew the good things too. I knew, okay, that joke landed, that was really good. But then I also had her take notes of, okay, this joke could have been better. You know, you should have waited before you gave the punchline. I walk around a lot when I get nervous. I was pacing back and forth and she’s like, all right, you know, maybe stand still a little bit more. But I was able to kind of go home and study those notes and then get better. So it’s all to the good end of making us better versions of ourselves.

Connor: And then I think what’s interesting, so let me ask you, in that case, did your friend decide to take those notes on her own? Or did you ask her to do that for you?

Brittany: So I have a lot of friends that are standout comedians, and we always have somebody on note duty. So every time we go, we have somebody who’s recording, whose job it is to record, and then the other person with us, or maybe, you know, there’s a couple people, we assign somebody to take notes. So it’s kind of become like, every time we go, everyone’s doing it for each other.

Connor: And, what I like about that is you’ve kind of expected it upfront, right? You know, it’s gonna happen. and that’s, you know, where the topic for today is how to take ne negative feedback. I think that’s a great idea. it’s, you’re actually seeking input, right? You’re, you are wanting that input so you can be better. And so I think one way to take negative feedback is actually to ask for it, right? It’s to think like, you know what? I wanna be a better writer. I want to be a better comedian. I want to be a better cook, a better software developer, you know, a better marketer, a better lemonade stand operator, whatever it is, right? And if you go and ask your customer or, you know, your friend or someone else who does the same thing, like if you, ask for their feedback and say, I want you to be honest, I want to try and improve. And so I wanna know areas where I can improve, that puts you in a mindset where it’s not just someone coming up out of the blue and saying, well, you know, I have some advice to give you and you need to change all these things. Like we, tend not to do well unless maybe it’s like for mom or dad or someone we really trust or love, right? but, if we ask for it, I think that places us in a good mindset of recognizing that I know what’s coming. I’ve asked for them. I want them to be honest because this is for a higher purpose. It’s not that I wanna know how awful I am, it’s that I wanna be better, right? Like, I don’t want someone to just tell me how flawed I am, that doesn’t you know, do any good. But if my goal is to improve, to be a better person, a better dad, a better son, a better, you know, brother, neighbor, whatever, if you have that like a higher goal, then the little negative criticisms you’re getting, you’re kind of putting them in context, right? You’re understanding that they’re connected to your bigger goal. I wanna be, I remember when I was learning the saxophone, and my band teacher and my

Brittany: Did not know you played the saxophone. That’s fun.

Connor: Used to back in the day. And you know, I had a music instructor and then I had the kind of band, the conductor, right? And they would point out, oh no, that that note was flat. You gotta fix that. And I was in the marching band, right? So it’s like, Hey Connor, your steps aren’t right. You gotta do this. And, so recognizing that I wanted to learn how to play saxophone better cause I wanted to be in my own band with some friends. I had that goal. And so I was able to take that criticism better because I was motivated by a goal. It wasn’t just, you know, an assignment that I had to do and someone was telling me how bad I was at it, right? Cause then you’re not motivated to do better. It’s like, what, what do I actually wanna do? Do I want to be better at writing? Do I wanna be better at math? Do I wanna learn how to cook better or ride a bike better? Play basketball or whatever it is? You have to figure out what those goals are and then go ask for that feedback from other people and they’ll help you. They’ll point out exactly what you’re doing wrong and you’re gonna improve a lot faster because people can see you doing things that you can’t see yourself, right? Like we may not know, like in your case, right? Maybe you didn’t know that you were walking around the stage with much subconscious, you don’t notice.

Brittany: Yep.

Connor: Right? I do the exact same thing. When I give presentations, I’m walking all over the stage and, I don’t even really notice. And so it takes someone else saying like, oh my gosh, I really noticed that to be like, oh yeah, I did do that. I didn’t really kind of pay attention to that. And so if you’re in a mindset where you want that feedback and you have a goal to be a better comedian, to be a better speaker, to be a better chef, or whatever, I think that’s when that negative feedback actually becomes very helpful for us.

Brittany: I think you’re absolutely right. And I think you hit on one key thing that I wanted to kind of pi back up on, and that is the, you said people you trust, right? You seek out people you trust. One thing I love that the organization I work for does, is we do something called 360 reviews every year where you pick five people that you think have a, they’ve worked with you enough, they know you enough to know both the good parts and the bad parts about your job performance. So you’re actually picking the people who do your like yearly reviews. And I think that’s really cool because then you get to pick the people again, who you trust and who know you the best. So I think that’s really important to make sure that when you do seek out this feedback, you’re seeking out from people who are respectful and people that you know will give you, you know, the honest, good opinion, but in a way that you can handle.

Connor: That’s excellent. Well, I hope especially for, the younger kids listening to this, this has been helpful. I know mom and dad listening, recognize that, you know, this is how to help our kids. This is how to help kids improve is, you know, maybe help them pick out what are your goals, what do you wanna improve on? And then, you know, those kids can be open to that feedback. So then it’s not so much criticism, right? It’s, feedback, it’s ideas on how to be better because we have those higher goals. So, little action item. Maybe you guys can sit down together, you know, mom and child or dad or whoever, and kind of talk about this a little bit more. What are those goals and what are opportunities where you can get some really good feedback to actually improve a lot more faster? Guys, head to Tuttletwins.com/podcast. Make sure you’re subscribed. Thanks always for listening. We really appreciate it. And Brittany, until next time, we’ll talk to you later.

Brittany: Talk to you later.


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