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People love giving feedback to others – it’s a way for us to interact, connect, and feel as though we are part of something. But feedback can be a hard pill to swallow, especially when it isn’t as positive as you hoped, or ahem, shall I say “constructive?” I learned that lesson the hard way recently.

When Negative Nellies Attack

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak to someone who I have looked up to and admired for a long time. It was a great conversation, until she dropped a feedback bomb on me. I was explaining some of the launch projects I was working on with my clients, and her response, “Oh, so you’re basically a glorified virtual assistant then?”

Gasp. I was beyond horrified. I was crushed. I may have stumbled out a response of “not really,” but honestly, I was so shocked, that I can hardly remember the rest of the conversation.

I’m not someone who has cared much about other’s opinions or feedback in the past. To be fully transparent, there aren’t many people whose feedback I truly value, so it’s usually not very difficult for me to bounce back from any type of negative comments.

But this time was different. valued her opinion. I cared about what her perception of me was. Iwanted her to as positive about it as I was feeling up to that point. And since she was so flippant about it, it paralyzed me for a good week… I was bummed out, unsure of what I was doing, and started questioning everything that I had planned.

4 Steps to Manage Negative Nellies’ Opinions

Sadly, whether you are in business for yourself or work in a corporate job (and everything in between), you are going to run into Negative Nellies in the form of opinions and feedback. Here’s how to work through it and come out the other side stronger than before.

Tell an objective friend.

I was so mortified by the words of one of my “heroes,” that I refused to tell anyone about it. I sat and stewed over it until I literally couldn’t move forward. Hello again my friend, analysis paralysis. Then one of my friends, ahem Jenny, called me to chat about something else – and I couldn’t hold it in any longer.

For the first time I felt better. Not only was I able to get it off my chest, but I was able to gain some perspective for an outsider. Sure your friend has your best interests in mind, but he/she will still be able to tell you if you think it’s something to ponder further, or if it’s feedback that you can ignore altogether.

Figure out why the feedback stuck you so viscerally.

This is the hard part because who really wants to dig deep into their insecurities and fears? But this step is the one of transformation – your mindset needs to acknowledge the hurt behind the words, in order to move forward from a strong state.

I start by writing down the words that hurt me, and my initial and immediate response to them. By clearly seeing the statement that crushed me along with my own reaction to them, it is immediately clear what I need to work on.

Gulp – here’s what I wrote after the conversation above:

  • Does the label “VA” undermine my skills and the value I deliver?
  • How can my vision be so different from what she sees as reality?
  • What type of differentiation would I have as a “glorified VA” in the marketplace?
  • How would I be hire-able, particularly at my rates, if I was “just” a VA?
  • Is this truly what I am and what I’m doing? Am I a glorified VA?

Find the truth behind the person’s words.

Just because the words hurt your feelings, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a nugget of helpful feedback buried in there. Pick it apart to find the underlying reason why the comment was delivered – and see what you can improve on from there.

Remove the emotional component as much as possible, to peel back the layers for your own self-growth and improvement. It’s no longer about the other person – take the components that carry value to you, and use that as your new baseline.

Counteract the history.

Sure, you have areas of improvement – we all do. And yes, that person’s words may have stung. But after you’ve identified the insecurities behind the hurt and started to dig further into the feedback, it’s time to get back into the driver’s seat.

Create a three point plan to make those words obsolete.

  1. Turn the negative into a positive. For my example above, “glorified VA” was turned into –> an entrepreneur’s right-hand person.
  2. Retell the story. “I had the opportunity to speak with someone I really look up to and admire. It was interesting her perspective of what I do. I definitely need to work on my ‘elevator pitch’ to succinctly explain the fun projects I get to work on.”
  3. Move the heck on. As long as my clients know what I do and value what I deliver (which they do!), than I am doing an awesome job. Onward and upward!


This post first appeared on LifeAfterCollege.org.