How to Handle the 5 Types of Critical Feedback

Hitler would ADORE you!

My heart was pounding as I opened the email with that as the subject. It was the first email I received after posting my previous article explaining the psychology behind the love and hate of Donald Trump.

As I opened up the email, I saw all of the hate.

"You’re dangerous...You’re a Nazi...I’m sure Hitler would have loved to have you to justify him!"

My heart quickly sank. Then another email….

"Your logic is infantile...This is absolutely useless and you are dangerous!"

I sank even deeper. Why did I do this?

I knew I shouldn't have done anything in politics. Even if it was from my current research of fear and how it affects our willpower.

At that moment I just wanted to take the article down. Clearly, I’d made a mistake and I needed to do some damage control.  

But before I do that, I thought, let me engage these people in a dialogue. Maybe they’ll bring up some good points that I can use to improve the article.

So I responded to each of them asking why they felt how they did, explained my goal for the article, and asked how they believed I might be able to improve it.

The response…you’re a Nazi, you’re a narcissist, you’re a menace to society.

No suggestions, just more hate. Meanwhile, I was beginning to get a wide range of feedback from others. Some positive, some with follow-up questions, and some with real suggestions about how to improve it. 

This was a great reminder of why you need to understand who is criticizing you. 

Here are the 5 types of people who will give you critical feedback—with examples from real people who have given it to me. 

1.    TROLLS

The first type of feedback you will receive is from people who are best known as “Trolls.”

Trolls are people who feel better about themselves by bringing you down.

There is no reasoning with a Troll. They aren’t criticizing you because they disagree with your ideas, nor because they really want you to improve. They are doing it simply because it makes them feel better. [1]

You can find Trolls in real life who may criticize you, but they are most prevalent on the Internet. Online they can hide behind a computer screen. They don’t need to deal with the vulnerability of confronting you in person. They can simply criticize and move on to someone else. 


“This article is bullshit and you’re a terrible writer. Any one of these other people commenting could write better than you. Keep practicing…it clearly isn’t working.” 


Ignore them.

Trolls are inevitable. You cannot hide from them if your work is in the public sphere. So as soon as you realize this person isn’t offering you any real criticism and is just there to bring you down, let go of their words. They don’t really mean anything.


The next type of feedback you will receive is from people whom I’ll call “Aliens.”

Aliens are people who will give you harsh feedback simply because they do not understand you.

They’re “from another planet” and see the world differently than you do. This could be due to culture, principles, generational differences, whatever. They don’t understand you and they don’t want to understand you.

You are much more likely to come across Aliens in real life than Trolls. They may be family members who don’t understand your lifestyle choices, people with different political views than you, etc.


“You’re dangerous! You’re a Nazi! I’m sure Hitler would have loved to have you to justify him!”

The person who first emailed me calling me a Nazi is an Alien. As soon as he saw “good person” and “Trump supporter” in the same sentence, he no longer wanted to understand. His heart was full of rage, and I was the target.


Understand their perspective, and keep it in mind. 

It is really easy to stereotype an Alien and respond with the same ignorance they’re showing you. But they have a reason for their beliefs. This particular Alien was a protestor at a Trump rally and witnessed the violence first hand—if I were there, I might have felt the same way. [2]

However, understanding them doesn’t mean accepting their feedback as the truth. It is simply taking the time to understand their perspective and keeping it in mind for your work in the future.


The third type of feedback you will get is from “Yes Men.”

Yes Men aren’t really giving you feedback; they’re really just giving you flattery.

They either want you to like them, or they don’t want to hurt your feelings, so they will praise you at every step—even if those steps start going in the wrong direction.

Feedback from a Yes Man can be one of the most harmful. We are wired to love praise. And if you listen to too many Yes Men, then you may start only listening to their feedback, while ignoring critical feedback that may actually help you improve. [3]

There are many Yes Men in your life. The list includes your parents who praise your results regardless, your friends who won’t criticize you because they want you to like them, and your coworkers who are playing politics.


“I loved every word of your book! I wouldn't change a thing!” (Upon receiving the first draft of The Will of Heroes, which needed many changes…) 


Check yourself, and challenge them with specifics.

When I received that email from a Yes Man, I felt my ego being stroked. It felt good. No flaws…I knew I was a great writer! But I had to check myself. I didn’t send him the first draft just to make myself feel better. I sent it to improve the book.

So I challenged him with specific questions that others brought up.

When you challenge them like this, they will either:

1)    Reveal that they didn’t actually review your work. It was easier to just offer praise. 

- OR -

2)    Be more comfortable giving you real answers because answering, “which chapter made the least sense to you and why?” is easier to give an honest answer than, “what did you think of the book?”

Challenging Yes Men/Women like this will reveal if they’re just not comfortable giving critical feedback, or if they’re just there to flatter you.


The fourth type of critical feedback you’ll receive is from people whom I call “Tarantinos” after movie director Quentin Tarantino (who is an excellent director, but also has a temper).

Tarantinos have high standards, and they become angry if you don’t live up to them.

On the surface, Tarantinos can appear like Aliens. They will be vocal, or even angry, in their criticism of your work and your choices. But the difference is that Tarantinos are doing it because they expect better out of you.

Unlike Aliens, they understand you (or at least accept you). Rather than trying to force you to adhere to their values, they’re more interested in ensuring you live up to your own—and they will be quick to call you out if you don’t.


“You’ve just repeated and copied EXACTLY what Andy Puddicombe from Headspace said and YOU NEVER EVEN MENTIONED HIS NAME ONCE, not even listed him in your sources.

Instead, you've taken complete ownership and full credit of what Andy's given you for FREE. Can't you just simply thank the man? Egocentric.”


Listen to them, don't get emotional, and address the issue.

This Tarantino was calling me out on one of my top values with this site—citing my sources. I  instantly became emotional. I just wanted to delete this comment so no one else would know I didn’t live up to my standards.

But I took a deep breath, understood why he was angry, accepted my mistake, and fixed it. Then I responded to him apologizing and thanking him for calling me out on it.

He responded:

First, thank you for the humility and taking the time to give credit to Andy and his team. I apologize for the things I've said if it sounded rude, or somewhat harsh.

It's just that I can clearly see how they put so much value into their work and in giving the best service and experience to their customers, and I didn't want anyone to simply not thank them for what they're giving. I know you understand where I'm coming from.

I am now taking back what I've said about you being egocentric. Sorry. Just please be more careful next time and make sure to include your references if there's any. Some people are more keen than me, and some might even mess up your reputation intentionally.

Best of luck to you and your works.

This response highlights the difference between a Tarantino and an Alien. When I responded to the Alien in my example, he simply came back with more hate and criticism. Whereas this Tarantino accepted my apology and helped me keep up my high standards.

The critical feedback from Tarantinos can be really hard to swallow. But as long as you don’t take it personally, own up to your mistake, and address the issue; you will turn a hater into an ally. And your work will be better for it.


The fifth type of critical feedback you’ll receive is from “Challengers.”

Challengers are big fans of you, but their praise is not unconditional. 

With every step in your journey, they will be there to challenge you. They will want to understand why you made your choices, or how you came up with your ideas. Like Tarantinos, they hold you accountable to a higher standard, but they respond with questions, rather than anger.

Challengers are your best allies in achieving what you truly want in life. They are the friends who will be honest with you, the family members who will hold you accountable, and the coworkers that you don't want to let down. 


"The article mainly addresses the "big" fears. What would you say about the small ones that we encounter many times a day ? 

I mean the fear of the stranger besides me on the bus, or the fear to ask a question I believe I will look stupid, the fear to tell the other person that what he/she's doing is harming someone, etc...

My understanding is that those fears are over emphasized by no one but ourselves but still they consume our energy."


Engage them in debate, and DO NOT take them for granted.

The example above is from a man named Philippe, who is one of my earliest subscribers. With every article I write, I know there's a good chance Philippe will challenge me on my ideas, or bring up questions I never even thought about.

His feedback, as well as the feedback from many other Challengers in my life, has been priceless.

The biggest mistake people make with Challengers is taking them for granted. They either take their feedback too personally, or ignore it entirely. You don't always have to adhere to the feedback you get from a Challenger, but you must show them that you respect their opinion. 

If you don't show a Challenger that you at least respect their question or suggestion, you will teach them that it isn't worth their time to challenge you. And you will lose a powerful ally. 

the most dangerous feedback

About 2 months before I released The Will of Heroes, I was giving a review for my friend Chris Bailey's book, The Productivity ProjectChris is about the same age as me and this is his first book as well. 

When I was reviewing his book on Amazon, something startled me—a negative review. 

Not a review that was full of hate, but one that was written by a smart person who made some good points. That made me realize, "uh oh, smart people are going to give me bad reviews too! I can't let that happen!"

So I went back to my book. I read it over...and over...and over. I spent a whole month after the book was ready to be published obsessing over every last word. It needed to be perfect! I even had trouble sleeping I was so worried I would make a mistake and be discredited for it. 

I was scared to death to send in my final copy.

Eventually, though, I realized that my obsession was actually making things worse. I was only creating more flaws by overly obsessing about not being criticized. I finally snapped out of my funk and sent in my final copy.

This is by far the most dangerous feedback—the one you build up in your own head. 

Understand that no matter who you are, what you do, or how great your work, you will receive critical feedback from one of these types of people. And the worst thing you can do is let the fear of that feedback paralyze you and stop you from putting yourself out there.


"There is only one way to avoid criticism: say nothing, do nothing, be nothing." - Aristotle

Critical feedback is inevitable. If you put yourself out there, you will be criticized. If you don't put yourself out there, you will be criticized. There is no way to avoid it, so you must make a choice to understand it.

Here are the 5 types of people who have given me critical feedback. Some should be ignored, some should be respected, and some should be challenged. The important thing is to approach each type with a clear head. Understand who you're dealing with, and respond appropriately.

But whatever you do, do not let the fear of criticism prevent you from putting yourself out there.