Feedback is crucial to growth and success, right? Not always. In today’s world everyone has an opinion and you can be flooded by them if you are not careful, which can lead to inaction and confusion.
Sometimes feedback is just not constructive or goes against what you believe. Consider if JK Rowling had listened to the many rejections she received for Harry Potter, or if Oprah Winfrey had listened to the critic that told her she didn’t have a future in television before she went on to star in her own self-titled show.
This doesn’t mean all feedback is wrong, for just as there are stories of people who became successful by ignoring their negative feedback, there are equally many tales of people who gained success by using it. The Beatles for example. According to Cracked, manager Brian Epstein only agreed to take on the band if they agreed to clean up their acts, wear proper suits, and stop swearing on stage. Hard to believe, but they had a reputation for being disorderly before Epstein took them on and took them out of small bars and into bigger arenas. This feedback went on to help them become the stars we know today.
So how then does one know which feedback to ignore? Especially in today’s hyper-connected world where not all opinions are created equal?
It’s important to note which feedback will help you and which you should ignore, According to Dorie Clark “As my business has grown and my visibility has increased, I have received a steady stream of feedback. And for the sake of my own sanity — and accomplishing the goals that are most important to me — I’ve generally decided to tune out other people’s suggestions and advice.”
Feedback to ignore:
1. When it’s too vague.
As a former political reporter during her early years, one of Clark’s editors would say things like, “Make it different” or “It’s not as strong as it could have been”. While the editor was her boss and she had to try and decode these vague suggestions, the feedback wasn’t constructive. Had the editor asked her to rewrite sections with specific clarity that may have been more useful. Similarly, getting feedback from others that is vague, such as “It doesn’t grab me” or “It seems a bit off” isn’t useful. Unless they offer you concrete suggestions for improvement and you can see their point, its best to move on if you can.
2. When it’s what you were striving for all along.
If your goal for your business is to be seen as a cutting-edge, creative, and elite brand that offers exclusive technology, getting feedback that your price points are not like other less elite computer companies is advice to ignore. For example, Apple know why their prices are more, and that is because they brand themselves as a cut above the rest. Clark had similar feedback from a subscriber who criticised her personal tone in her correspondence, and as this was something she was aiming for, she ignored the feedback.
3. When the source isn’t reliable.
A business entrepreneur with years of experience giving you advice on how to grow your start-up is one thing, whereas a family member who has never ran their own business before giving their own personal opinion is another. It may be well-meant, but always consider the source and the information offered. "Everyone may have an opinion, but that doesn't mean it's useful. Just as, in the Internet era, it's easy to drown in information overload if you don't meter your intake, the same is true of feedback." Clarke’s advice is to take feedback from people you admire and respect, where you decide if it would be valuable or not.
4. When its only one person.
Gretchen Rubin calls this a data point of one, in her book: Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives. She notes that data needs to come from many points in order for it to be reliable. One person thinking you don’t have any imagination, as in the case of a news editor who fired Walt Disney, isn’t the overarching opinion. One person’s bad opinion can be hard to swallow, but as Clark points out, the only time to take action is when it can constructively help you move forward or if you receive similar feedback from others.
5. When it’s just a cruel personal attack
The Internet makes it easy for people to leave snide commentary on social media and website feeds that they ordinarily wouldn’t say to people’s faces. Often this kind of ‘trolling’ is just cruel without any real critique or helpful advice. They’ll respond with things like, “This is stupid” or “You’re ugly”. It’s best to ignore this kind of feedback as it’s only negative and offers nothing.
Feedback can help you learn and grow concludes Clark, but it is sometimes overrated by the corporate world. What we need to do is ensure that we are getting feedback from the right people, who are informed, helpful, and have your best interests at heart. This is when it’s invaluable.