Criticism. Complaint. Confrontation. Usually, all difficult to accept, rationalize or understand. Our metaphoric hands quickly slap against our ears to filter out the words we can hardly believe.

I’ve been to concerts where the feedback screeches so loud through the sound system that you automatically stick your fingers in your ears to protect your hearing. It’s a natural protective reaction. Your ability to listen and interpret ceases.

We worry about the negativity of feedback, so the natural reaction is to avoid it or even worse, engage in seeking it, but fudge the results.

It’s really impossible to deliver a great product or service without understanding the Customer’s Real Needs and having great engagement and feedback systems. They used to say that ‘Fortune Favours the Brave” but in the new Social revolution world it’s more “Feedback Favours the Brave”, and you must be brave to obtain it honestly and genuinely, because sometimes it is not what you or your business wants to hear.

You ideally want feedback because you care and you are prepared to listen. Listening not hearing. Hearing has too much background noise or distraction. Listening is an art. It’s the ability to really focus on the speaker and correctly interpret what they are saying.

If you can listen properly, you will benefit from the considerable effort and commitment you have invested into your feedback system. Your sole focus will be on obtaining feedback to validate and improve your Customer Focused Mission (CFM): the objectives and beliefs that are critical to your business development.

The more you listen, the better you get at it. So, obtaining regular feedback and then acting on what you have heard by using it to develop the CFM inch by inch becomes not only an efficient process, but an enjoyable one because your results improve.

You will naturally hone your listening skills so that your questions become more succinct and you will enjoy the feedback interaction. Even when something is said that hurts your ears and you did not like it, your experience through the regularity of the feedback process will prevent you from reacting inappropriately.

What’s more, unexpected feedback is a stimulus to look at things in a new context. A shock to the system will cause a reaction and reflection. It’s a great catalyst to refueling the feedback system within the team. Remember FUEL – Feedback Underpins Engagement and Loyalty.

Really negative feedback is just an opportunity to sense check the CFM and the feedback system. Either or both may need a tweak. Your next development inches may change priority as a consequence. None of this is a bad thing!

Many companies warn you that the interaction is being recorded ‘ for training purposes”. I genuinely hope that is the case, but I fear that too often it can be more about wielding a stick or legal protection than personal development. If you do have this facility in place, use it to genuinely improve the quality of your feedback system and the skills of your team. They will thank you for it because you are improving their personal skills, particularly listening.

So, feedback should never hurt your ears, it is never too loud even if someone is shouting. Listen to it; interpret it; act on it! It is the inaction that will hurt you, not the volume.

Russell Wood

Guy Arnold is Founder and Managing Director of Sales Through Service and Investors in Feedback. Russell Wood is a professional trainer and business advisor in the leisure and gaming industry. They are co-authors of of “The Reputation Book” LID Publishing 2017. Find out more at or or  email

Visit our book website at