How to deal with negative feedback

Receiving negative feedback can be a tough pill to swallow. It’s not easy to hear criticism of our work or behavior, especially when we’ve invested a lot of time and effort into it. But negative feedback can also be a powerful tool for growth and improvement, if we know how to handle it. In this article, I’ll show you how to use the flow state to deal with negative feedback and turn it into a positive experience.

The Flow State: What is it?

Flow is a state of mind where we’re completely immersed in an activity, fully focused and energized. It’s often described as “being in the zone.” Flow is a highly desirable state because it’s associated with creativity, productivity, and happiness.

Flow was first studied by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who coined the term and wrote extensively about it in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Csikszentmihalyi found that people who experience flow tend to be highly engaged in their work, feel a sense of control and mastery, and report a high level of satisfaction.

The neuroscience behind receiving negative feedback

When we receive negative feedback, our brains go through a series of complex reactions. Understanding the neuroscience behind these reactions can help us better manage our emotions and respond to feedback in a constructive way.

First, negative feedback activates the amygdala, which is the part of the brain responsible for processing emotions, particularly fear and anxiety. The amygdala triggers the release of cortisol, a stress hormone, which prepares us for a fight-or-flight response. This is why we often feel defensive or threatened when we receive negative feedback.

At the same time, the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for executive functions such as decision-making and self-control, also becomes activated. This allows us to process the feedback and decide how to respond. However, if we’re too overwhelmed by negative emotions, our prefrontal cortex may not function effectively, leading to impulsive or defensive reactions.

Using the Flow State to Deal with Negative Feedback

So how can we use the flow state to deal with negative feedback? Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Take a Deep Breath and Center Yourself

When you receive negative feedback, your first instinct might be to get defensive or dismissive. But this will only lead to more stress and negativity. Instead, take a deep breath and center yourself. Close your eyes if it helps. Remind yourself that feedback is an opportunity for growth and improvement.

  1. Focus on the Process, Not the Outcome

When you’re in the flow state, you’re not focused on the end result. Instead, you’re fully engaged in the process of doing the work. This is a helpful mindset to adopt when dealing with negative feedback. Instead of fixating on the criticism, focus on the steps you can take to improve. Ask yourself, “What can I do differently next time?”

  1. Use the Feedback to Improve

Negative feedback can be painful, but it can also be a valuable learning experience. Use the feedback to identify areas where you can improve. Don’t be too hard on yourself – everyone makes mistakes. But do take the feedback seriously and use it as an opportunity to grow.

  1. Keep Going

Finally, don’t let negative feedback derail you. Keep moving forward and stay in the flow state. Remember that flow is a state of mind, not a destination. You can always get back into the flow state, even after a setback.

No More Feedback: Cultivate Consciousness at Work

If you’re looking for more guidance on how to deal with negative feedback and cultivate a flow state at work, I highly recommend the book No More Feedback: Cultivate Consciousness at Work by Anna Carroll. Carroll argues that traditional feedback systems are flawed and counterproductive, and offers a new approach to workplace communication based on mindfulness and self-awareness.

Carroll’s approach is grounded in the principles of flow. She encourages readers to cultivate a state of mindfulness and self-awareness in order to become more productive, creative, and satisfied at work. She also provides practical tips and exercises to help readers achieve a flow state and deal with negative feedback in a constructive way.


Negative feedback can be a difficult experience, but it can also be an opportunity for growth and improvement. By using the flow state, you can turn it into a positive learning experience. Remember to take a deep breath, focus on the process, use the feedback to improve, and keep going.

Overall, receiving negative feedback can be a stressful and uncomfortable experience. We may feel anxious, defensive, or even attacked. But by understanding the neuroscience behind our reactions, we can become more self-aware and better able to manage our emotions. Practicing mindfulness and deep breathing can help calm the amygdala and activate the prefrontal cortex, allowing us to respond to feedback in a more thoughtful and constructive way.

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