As human beings we are constantly getting feedback from the surroundings. Sometimes it is positive feedback and sometimes it is negative. Just as with so many things in life you need to plan on how you react when getting it. Getting negative feedback is always the hardest, but what most people do not think of is that what matters the most is who is giving you this feedback. That is the biggest difference. not what is being said.
This week I was discussing a potential business idea with two people I know well, and have worked with in the past. During the very early stages of the discussion the suggestion to invite another guy that I only know briefly but has worked close to the others came up and so we did.
He did not like the idea, but it was the way he put forward his decline that surprised me.
I am going to be completely honest! I do not feel like working with you Per. You are a very nice guy, but I have never seen you do anything
Of course it was not something I enjoyed to hear, and definitely not something I expected. I immediately went through all the “normal” questions in my head. What could I possibly have done to him to get him to tell me something like that? Was it any project in the past that I did not finish where he was involved. I could only come up with 2 different things where we worked together and one of them is paid and done. The other thing that I think of was just a very brief discussion about an extention of the current product the company he worked for had, but we were never even close to contract negotiations.
I tried to find ways that I misunderstood what he wrote, like “…but I have never seen any of your work” which could be a possible interpretation, but I doubt it and I tried to ask the others if they knew what that was all about and got support from them.
After spending way too much time thinking of what he said I had to tell myself to stop it. I know very well that not every project I take on is becoming a reality, but not because I never do something, but historically because I try to do too much at the same time. I also giggled to myself when I realised that if I would never have done anything I have come a pretty far way in my career without work. Imagine how far I will get if I actually start doing something. More importantly however is, why should I spend my already stretched time thinking on what that someone I will not work with are saying?
If any of the others in this conversation would have said the same thing (they had all the more reason actually as I have been discussing some ideas before with one of them that have not become a reality, and left the other with quite some work after resigning from another project of mine) I should be deeply concerned, and probably take actions to improve my image and way I work. But from this guy I should just shrug it off my shoulders and leave it behind me.
If we allow everyone to insult us, and give us negative energy we will spend a lot of time feeling bad because of this. However, if we only let those that we do respect deeply and look up to give us negative feedback and act on that feedback we will improve and take the next step in our learning path and careers. Be it finish more projects, or to better showcase what we do, or just how to better manage people. Basically anything that we can think of and improve (and constantly improving is one of the most important things we can do).
Write down a (short) list of people that you respect and look up to and promise yourself that those are the only ones that you will allow to give you negative feedback, and when they do, act on it even if it is hard work. Everyone else is not worth the energy it takes to tackle the negative feedback so do not waste your time doing it. Of course this can become problematic if your current line manager does not make it to the list, but if that is the case you already have a problem at hand that is not covered by this post.
As a small side note by the way, do not be afraid to allow everyone to give you positive feedback and try to really get as much positive energy from it as you possibly can. And do not forget to give positive feedback to those that deserves it, that will increase the likelyhood that they will allow you to insult them in the future (in the sense that they are more likely to look up to you)!
And finally some last advice. I still do not know why he told me this, but now I do not care about it more than as the background story of this blog post. Even if I would not want to work with someone in the future for whatever reason I would however strongly recommend against being as honest as this guy. You never know where people end up, and when or if you might have the use of a good connection.