By Nadya Khoja published February 1, 2017

4 Ways to Manage Negative Feedback in a Positive Way

manage-negative-feedback-positive-wayAs marketers we often face rejection and negativity. An idea is shot down. An angry reader rants in a comment. A prospect chooses a competitor’s product.

We can’t help but feel a bit of a sting when someone spits on our hard work. How do we stay strong and steadfast in our commitment to succeeding in our content marketing efforts? It’s not always easy.

My team and I talked to over 50 marketing influencers who set themselves up for potentially negative feedback by speaking or publishing for an audience. I compiled these four recurring tips to help us overcome unfortunate real-life and internet negativity.

1. Learn from it

The most common suggestion shared by experts was to learn from the negative feedback.

Jen Spencer, vice president of sales and marketing at Allbound, suggests first identifying whether the feedback is useful or if it’s garbage. “There are people out there who will always see the negative, and only the negative,” she says.

As a result, you can look at the feedback two ways: (1) confirmation that you do, in fact, suck or (2) an opportunity to ask yourself how you can improve.

It all comes down to your mindset. Do you accept what you’re told as is? Or do you persevere and find a way to turn that negative perspective around?

If the negative feedback is useful, ask yourself how you can improve, says @jenspencer via @nadyakhoja. Click To Tweet

Doug Kessler, co-founder of Velocity Partners, says receiving negative feedback with open ears is an important part of being a marketer: “The only real response you need to make is ‘thanks’ – and then to try to take on board what the person said and how it can help you.”

Receiving negative feedback with open ears is an important part of being a marketer, says @dougkessler. Click To Tweet

The truth is not everything you say or create will be widely accepted and loved. There will always be differences of opinion.

Vera Jones, president of Vera’s Voice Works, really hits that nail on the head when she says:

“Your focus should not be about being approved, but rather being improved! True winners are always looking for ways to get better. Seeking to be approved involves a lot of unstable emotion. Seeking to be improved involves a lot of stable evaluation.

“If your mindset and your desire is to be improved, then you will remain open to all forms of constructive critique because you will always be welcoming and processing for information to grow or to better yourself, your product, or your service.”

Criticism can be invaluable to your personal and professional growth. The trick is to be able to assess where that feedback is coming from, reflect, and then react, rather than jump the gun and get defensive immediately.

The trick to criticism: Assess where it’s coming from, reflect, & react. Don’t get defensive. @nadyakhoja Click To Tweet

2. Ignore it

Of course, feedback also comes from sources that do not have the same level of experience as you do. Many people tell you what you should do without saying anything of value.

According to a study in Psychology Today, most hateful banter comes from online trolls. What fuels these individuals to be so vocal on the internet is the mask of anonymity, also referred to as the online disinhibition effect. Forums like Reddit or social networks like Twitter and Facebook bring large and diverse audiences, but that also means they’re places where you are more likely to fall victim to the social identity model of deindividuation effects. In more simple terms, you are more likely to experience an online mob mentality.

People team up on the person in the spotlight, often out of jealousy. If this is the case, heed the advice of Peep Laja, founder of ConversionXL, and Warren Greshes, president of Speaking of Success: Ignore the negativity.

Sometimes it is better to only listen to those you know, respect, and trust, Greshes says. Others may be talking flack because they are bitter, jealous, or entitled.

Sometimes it is better to only listen to those you know, respect, and trust, says @warrengreshes. Click To Tweet

3. Hear it

Just because someone has something bad to say doesn’t mean you need to accept it as truth. You can choose to listen and acknowledge people who share their thoughts without agreeing with them.  A lot of the time, people just want to know that they have been heard.

Hear the commentary, say thank you, and move on.

Daniel Lewis, co-founder of MARSketing, says it best:

“After you’ve tried so many things and experienced failure to some degree, you get to a place where you appreciate the fact that someone has taken the time out of their life to actually say anything about what you’re doing. I mean, seriously, they could have just ignored it completely, but it was interesting enough to evoke some form of an opinion.”

Whether you’re a content creator or a vice president of marketing, sometimes the best thing to do when people send angry messages your way is to hear them out and respond. In many circumstances, particularly with external audiences, your critics will be surprised you even acknowledged them.

When people send angry messages your way hear them out & respond, says @nadyakhoja. Click To Tweet

Comedian Eric André once said he noticed one guy would comment hateful things every time Eric posted an image to Instagram. Eventually, he tweeted at the commenter to ask why he was so upset by the photo. You know what happened? The commenter immediately retracted his statement and confessed that he was a huge fan of Eric’s, and that he meant no harm.

What does this tell you? A lot of people are really just hungry for some attention.

4. Own it

As human beings, we often have a tendency to immediately reject all forms of criticism. We become defensive and take it personally. I’m no stranger to this reaction. Although “not taking it personally” is easier said than done, sometimes owning that feedback and accepting it is the first step to growth.

Salma Jafri, a speaker and trainer, says negative criticism helps her realize that her work is not bland: “It’s eliciting an emotion … would you not rather be interesting than boring?”

Negative criticism helps me realize my work is not bland: It’s eliciting an emotion, says @salmajafri. Click To Tweet

Some of the best content stirs the pot. Writer Ryan McCready uses a data-driven approach to challenge the status quo. We published one of his articles on hashtag spam that resulted in a lot of angry commentary and hateful emails. What did Ryan do? He owned it. He stood by his argument and directly addressed much of the criticism that came his way in the comments. What he didn’t do was take the feedback personally. Why? He was confident in his research-backed statements.

The point is that you need to accept that your message will not be received well by everybody, but that’s OK. Don’t ignore their feedback, but don’t automatically let it sway you.

Don’t ignore negative feedback, but don’t automatically let it sway you, says @nadyakhoja. Click To Tweet

Final words

Negative feedback sucks. As marketers, though, we must constantly take risks by putting ourselves, our brand, and our content in the spotlight and being subject to angry tweets, harsh Facebook posts, or blog comment trolls. If you truly took to heart what every internet personality threw your way, you’d fall into a pit of despair. Instead, remember to take every comment with a grain of salt. After all, when you devote your energy to make a name or grow your brand and let the naysayers focus their energy on defeating feedback, you are the one who will get ahead in the long run.

negative-comments-half-infographic-venngage

Click to see the full infographic and list.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Nadya Khoja

Nadya is the director of marketing for Venngage, an online graphic design software. She also runs a web-series called Drunk Entrepreneurs. Follow her on Twitter @NadyaKhoja.

Other posts by Nadya Khoja

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  • http://rocketmandigital.com/ Jeff Nowak

    Great piece and great nuggets to deal with the negative.

    • Nadya Khoja

      Thanks Jeff! Appreciate the comment!

  • heidicohen

    Nadya–

    Thank you for addressing a topic that anyone who is doing good work encounters.

    There are 2 pieces of wisdom on this topic:
    –Any promotion is good promotion. (BUT it takes a very thick skin!)
    –Don’t feed the trolls. (Instead follow Obama’s advice: When they go low, you go high!)

    Happy marketing,
    Heidi

    Heidi Cohen
    Actionable Marketing Guide

    • Nadya Khoja

      Thanks for the comment, Heidi! I personally struggle when it comes to ignoring trolls (particularly in the recent political climate), but the more you give them, the more fuel they have against you.

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  • http://www.iconiContent.com Aaron Orendorff

    What a phenomenal distillation of that larger piece! As someone who struggles with fear and approval (i.e., a HUMAN), 3 and especially 4 were so helpful.

    I’ve been reading Holiday’s Ego is the Enemy recently and this couldn’t have overlapped and driven home his lessons better!

    Huge thanks. 😀

    • Nadya Khoja

      Totally, it’s so easy to immediately get defensive in response to criticism, but without hearing it and owning it, it’s so much harder to actually improve. Sometimes people actually DO know what they are talking about!

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  • http://australia-b2b-marketing.com/ Helaina Berry

    Wonderful article. Everyone had their own competitors and gives a negative feedback in our works in such many ways but this leads us to become a better person. Many people can judge you but try to think of it and accept what does they really mean. As a marketers you have to take it and indulge the negative vibes. By learning and hearing those negative sides to the people who puts you down is the best way to have a better brand and content. Negative feedback really sucks but if without this we can’t learn and grown up.

  • Nigel Lindemann

    Great article! Every marketeer gets confronted with negative feedback at some point. But how you handle it and what you learn from it, will shape you.