So you are working on speaking up more. Or you are dreaming about launching that new business, or nonprofit, or artistic venture. Or you are just trying to be more of your real deal self and share what is on your mind.

In some way, you are fighting the everyday fight to step into playing a little bit bigger – because you want the joy of it and you want to do some good in this world.

I bow to that. I’m proud of you.

We need to talk about feedback — feedback in the broadest sense. Not just the kind of feedback you get in annual “feedback conversations” at work, or when someone says, “Um, can I give you some feedback?” I mean all kinds of feedback. The feedback that shows up in how many comments you get on a blog post, or in how many people buy what you are selling. The feedback that shows up in how many job interviews you get called in for – and how many companies ignore your resumé. The feedback that shows up when you say something in a meeting and it is met with awkward silence – or when you say something and everyone responds with agreement and excitement.

If you are playing bigger, if you are sharing your voice, you are going to get more feedback that feels high stakes because it is feedback on the real, emerging, tender you.

This is hard.

We are tender. The toughest among us are even more tender, underneath our thick skin. We are afraid of finding out we aren’t good enough. We are afraid of finding out we are more than good enough, so good that there is no reason to keep stalling, perfecting, preparing – that it is actually time to just step onto the big stage now. What if that is true? Ack!

So I want to offer you a mega-concept shift, a whole new way of thinking about feedback that has allowed feedback to serve me (instead of scare me). It allows me to even seek out feedback. While I can’t say I now love getting feedback and enjoy it as much as an ice cream sundae…this makes it tolerable to get it. Note: this way of looking at feedback is one of the few useful things I learned in business school, and now, I share it with you (and you don’t even have to pay the $70k tuition).



If you show your memoir to a writing group, and three people say it’s boring, what does that really tell you? It tells you about what those people find boring. Does it give you any facts about the quality of your writing? Does it reveal any truths about your potential and merit as an artist? Nope. The only fact you have is about what these three people find boring. But what if tons of people think it’s boring? If you show your memoir to a million people, and all of them say it’s boring, that still does not tell you anything about you. It tells you about what audiences find boring.

If you pitch your idea to a venture capital firm and they aren’t interested, that tells you something about what they get interested in and what they don’t. It does not actually tell you anything about you or your idea.

But stay with me for part two of the idea here, because part two is very important. I’m not arguing that feedback should be ignored because it doesn’t tell you anything about you. No no no no no. No! I’m a huge proponent of gathering, listening to and incorporating feedback. It is vital.

Here’s the difference: in this new paradigm, we seek out feedback not because it tells us about our own value or merit, but because it tells us whether we are reaching the people we need to reach in the way we want to. If that entrepreneur wants her pitch to be effective with venture investors, she needs to know what speaks to them. If that memoirist wants her work to be read widely, she needs to know what keeps a reader engaged. Most of us want to reach and influence other people with our work, our ideas. Usually, we need (or want) to reach particular people or particular types of people. We want to influence them in particular ways.

As writers, we want the reader to learn and to enjoy. As entrepreneurs, we want the investor to invest, or the customer to buy. As healers, coaches, therapists, we want to do work that actually heals and transforms. Feedback tells us about what is working and not for the particular people we want to reach. It gives us insight into them, not into ourselves.

When I write a post and no one comments, shares it on social media, or writes to me about it, I could conclude that I wrote “a bad post” or that I am a failure. Or I could use that as an opportunity to learn something about my audience – to glean an insight about what helps a post make an impact for them. The first line of thinking will send me into an unhelpful self-obsessing spiral. The second will help me improve my craft.

Feedback doesn’t tell you whether you are good enough or not. Whether your ideas have merit or not. Whether you are gloriously worthy or worthless. It is not meant to give you self-esteem boosts or wounds. It gives you tactical information about how to reach who you want to reach.

Feedback is emotionally neutral information that tell us what sings to our audience, what resonates for them, what communicates clearly, what engages the people we want to engage.

Got it?

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Big love, big hugs, big appreciation to all of you.



photo credit: Kelly Sikkema

Join the discussion 74 Comments

  • Barbara J Daley says:

    I find that very helpful.Thank you

  • Joan says:

    That was very helpful. Something that I believe we miss more often than not. Something we can share with others who are struggling with how, or if, their message is being received. Thank you for that insightful probing into a sensitive area with a Q-tip instead of a scalpel! It allowed me to read all the way to the end and now to let it slowly absorb into my sensitive nerves and tissues.Bravo!

  • This was beautiful. I’ve been working on a post and this was the perfect little push I needed to finish it.

    Thank you wise one! xo

  • Abby Kerr says:

    Wow, Tara, what a gorgeous reframe. Thank you! This helps put so much in perspective. I will carry this with me. xo

  • This is a paradigm shift. I get it cognitively but will need to use this new way of thinking to shape how I process and respond to feedback that is shared. I am looking forward to seeing where this takes me. Thank you for sharing and challenging me to live big!

  • daisy says:

    You are right on the money, Tara! It’s so interesting how we tend to internalize feedback and make it into a value judgment about ourselves. I’ve done it myself. Thank you for spelling that out so clearly. :o)

    It’s the same with sales. Not making a sale is not a personal rejection. It is about not meeting a buyer’s need. Making the sale is not about the buyer valuing you. It is about you successfully meeting their need.

  • Karin says:

    Fantastically helpful for me, thank you! I’d heard the part 1 bit before but couldn’t work out what to do with it , so it never had enough impact to get me past the self-obsessing cycle. Thanks for giving me part 2 to make useful sense of part 1!

  • Cindy says:

    I got it…but please keep reminding me. This shift in thinking is huge!

  • Jill Malleck says:

    Tara, thank you for reminding me of this. I learned it from a wise mentor when I first started delivering training with those dreaded anonymous evaluation forms. I now know exactly what it means. As I work to connect with the people in the classroom at a different level, I can usually tell when I read them whose evaluation it is! Some I could have pre-written for them. Knowing how we reach or don’t reach people is important, but not because that’s the measure of our worth. Love it.

  • Nina says:

    I love how you brought healthy boundaries and business smarts together. Thank you so much!

  • J. says:

    Very useful. Great framing of what feedback actually tells us, and how to use it. This is also a great reminder that mean feedback is also more about the feedback-giver than ourselves. Reading this helped me let go of some anxiety I’ve been carrying after receiving some very mean feedback a couple of months ago. I knew it was blown out of proportion and not accurate, but it still irked me. And the reality is, the person who gave me that feedback is not someone I’m trying to reach. Thank you for the reminder!

  • Sandra says:

    This was a great reminder. I believe that us (women) get specially emotional with feedback.
    Your article reminds us why we seek it and how to use it.

    Thank you!

  • Anna says:

    Yes, Tara! Your post reminds me of what Don Miguel Ruiz (The Four Agreements) says: What other people say (or do?) is not about you. It is (absolutely) about them.

    And boy can it be painful when we are in places with strong emotional attachments. In a family interaction I knew was coming, there is a dynamic I had completely forgotten about, that has been extremely painful for me. But this time I saw it coming and had the chance to plan and understand. It still hurt, yet I was prepared in remembering it had nothing to do with me and that I had no control over it.

    So as it unfolded, I was able to maintain my composure, not engage in any related emotional interaction and still feel my valid and telling emotions. I let the situation go. Definitely the fount of a good cry … and the beginning of a shift in our dynamic.

    It’s so valuable to remember that lesson applies to business ventures, too. Thank you, Tara!

  • Eve says:

    Thanks for the lovely jolt of reality just before I turn to writing my post of the week.
    Here’s one of my struggles with remembering that feedback only tells you about the person who offers it.
    That has to mean that when the feedback is good, there are lots of comments, and everyone loves it, it’s equally not about me.
    I can be happy that I reached my audience, but that’s about all.
    So the manic highs in response to positive feedback have to go, just as much as the depressive lows in response to bad feedback.

  • Carmen Gonzales says:

    Very interesting! I never thought about it in this way.

    Thank you 🙂

  • Mom on Hayward Fault says:

    I have a new job with people who are very inexperienced about the subject matter. All of a sudden, I am thought to be very smart and knowledgeable because I have skills in the topic. That was not true in my old job where I was less experienced than the average person there.

    On the other hand, I find if I get “too far ahead” of my audience in this company, and don’t explain things well, clearly, slowly, I get no response because they can’t follow what (the brilliant thing) I am saying. So, yes, I would say feedback is in many ways related to the audience.

    BTW, Van Gogh would agree with you 100%. The monetary feedback he got in his lifetime was paltry.

  • Angie CunninghaM says:

    Tara, thanks so much for this. It is the reason i haven’t ventured out to share publicly any of my poetry, for fear of “feedback” and being criticized or worse ignored completely. Thank you again.

  • Deirdre says:

    How can I not leave feedback on such a good post about feedback?

    I’ve been reluctant to recreate a Facebook page for my business, though it would easily display my work (photography). I realize I’m scared of easily given, public feedback.

    How do you distinguish between feedback that can teach you about your audience and “the haters”?

  • Jane says:

    We all need to remind ourselves of this basic truth all the time! Take nothing personally, but do observe it. Thank you!

  • Sharon says:

    I was spiraling down this morning. Your piece of advise is glorious. I can take in this information and run with it. Bless you for telling me.

  • Betty says:

    Thank you so much! I’m so glad that I found you. I can feel the change already. I found this very helpful!

  • David says:

    This is very interesting. Very much in line with not getting too wrapped up identifying with your own self image. Not getting too wrapped up with thinking your entire being IS a business person or artist or idea you’ve created.

  • Kiki says:

    Tara, I’m printing this up and carrying it in my organizer. Thank you.

  • Lyndi says:

    Tara, this is a fantastic post. Especially when it comes to those who are about to embark upon a new business or even a new chapter of their lives.

  • Syndee says:

    Amen. Absolutely the truth.

  • Kety says:

    Wow, thank you for sharing. I needed to hear this today!!!

  • Lisa says:

    Once again an excellent post. These days I’ve been wrestling with feedback — the good, the bad, and the painful. There is another aspect to feedback I feel is important to remember, and that is TIMING. I read this post at a time when I needed it. A month ago, I don’t know if it would have captured me; my life hadn’t caught up with it yet. The following is an extreme example, yet i think of Van Gogh. The feedback to his work was deafeningly silent (even with only one ear), yet he engaged with the muse as long as he could endure. Decades later crowds form in front of his paintings and those at auction sell for prices he’d never imagine in his wildest dreams. The world wasn’t ready for Vincent when he was working — hence no feedback.

    Innovators need to be careful with trying to provide the crowd with what they want,it may dampen nascent creativity. Some need to disregard feedback, focus on dreaming big and hope the crowd catches up to them in time. To act this way requires amazing resilience and courage.

    There is a kind of magic to being in the right place at the right time. Magic in aligning one’s words and vision with others yearnings or concerns — being the voice/image maker/inventor for the forming ideas of a shifting culture. In this case I say, don’t pay too much attention to feedback if, at the same time, an inner-voice says “keep on keeping on.” Sometimes great creative works are born in isolation and had they been adapted to the needs and interests of the time, they would have become derivative rather than inventive.

  • Suzyn says:

    This is so helpful! It reminds me of a wonderful passage from an interview with Brene Brown (from the TED website):

    When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness, is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible. Keep worthiness off the table. Your raise can be on the table, your promotion can be on the table, your title can be on the table, your grades can be on the table. But keep your worthiness for love and belonging off the table. And then ironically everything else just takes care of itself.

  • Cheryl says:

    The perfect message delivered to me at the perfect time in my life. Your words are another spin on one of “The Four Agreements”: Don’t take anything personally. Big appreciation back atcha, Tara!

  • Eniko says:

    Tara, your posts are wonderful and very inspiring. The reason some of us don’t leave comments is because we receive them via email…not that it’s hard to jump on your blog, but I follow several others and need to work on my own stuff, so I try to navigate through things quickly. I hope you feel the love and the appreciation…

  • lorna e smith says:

    This is one wonderful, timely post. I just sat still; tears in my eyes and a maybe in my heart. how do you know what is hurtful and where to apply a touch of wisdom and healing? Thank you Tara. Thank You1

  • thank you for the reminder that feedback tells us about the person giving the feedback with concrete, relevant examples. I’m reminded that it’s not all about me! I can get stuck being so self-focused which takes me away from the bigger message.

  • Leila says:

    JUST what I needed to hear.
    It’s always wonderful to be reminded about great truths 🙂
    Thank you.

  • Thank you so much Tara. This is just what I needed to hear. I’ve been putting my voice and my art out there more and more which is really exciting. However, while I’m reaching an increasing number of people it also opens me up to more feedback…rather scary. Thanks for taking some of the fear out it. xx

  • Thanks for your insight. However, my challenge is a little different. I have created a new website with a blog, but am hung up on trying to figure out what to write about by trying to know what people will be interested in reading. What I need to do is just write what is on my mind and in my heart, wait for the feeedback, and then let the feedback inform me!

  • Nan Robkin says:

    I agree mostly with your premise about feedback. But, I wonder if when three people give you the same feedback on some fiction you’ve written, or an idea you have pitched, shouldn’t you look at tweaking it? Not necessarily to pander to an opinion, but to make the thing, whatever it is, better? Can’t you take good advice? Without feeling incompetent or worse, a failure? I think too many times we take the criticism of a piece of work or an idea as criticism of us as a person, when after all it is only words, not ourselves that are in question.

  • Gina Lee says:

    Thank you Tara. I get it!

  • Ann Drew Yu says:

    Tara, thank you for putting into words (clear, wise ones) a message I can hold on to.

  • Thanx for all of your wise words. As women, we especially need to hear this feedback stuff and not react without thinking it through. So appreciate your thots.

  • This post certainly resonated with me, Tara. Thank you.

  • Tim Larison says:

    Tara – I thought this was one of your best blog post – thank you. When I receive negative feedback it is so easy to get into self depreciation mode (“what’s wrong with me?”) I like your message that I can keep my positive self image yet still gain insight from critical feedback. It’s about them, not me, and it can provide clues on how to better reach people.

  • Meryl Selig says:

    I say “ditto” to all the above. Feedback (regardless of the giver’s good intentions) can often sting and burn. So, we protectively and reflexively recoil or reject it. Your flipping the switch on this is significant. I’m adding this to my expanding array of practices for wiser living. Thank you.

  • Well you definitely connected with your audience on this one. 🙂

    It was a very helpful reminder and great reframe, as others have said. I realize how I have not been looking at the comments on my blog that way – as feedback for what resonates with them. It’s so obvious once said. Thank you! Cherry

  • Liz says:

    Thank you. Such a great message.

  • Jess Morrow says:

    Oh, thank you so much for writing this post. I’m exactly in that place, of expanding my writing & work, sending it into the world … and I needed to see this. xo

  • Galen Pearl says:

    In a world (blogworld) that is so based on comments and sharing, this post was a lightning bolt of truth and wisdom. Well said!

  • This made me feel SO very much better. I have had my share of negative feedback lately and it was really scaring me. THANK YOU FOR THIS!

  • Lindsey says:

    Oh Tara I love this … it reminds me of my 24 year old self who was so devastatingly crushed by unasked-for feedback I received from an older, male classmates in business school. It still to this day stings, though I’ve now understood it was about him and not about me, I wish I’d known that then. xox

  • Patricia says:

    Great message and perspective! I will incorporate this one daily. Thank you.

  • kari says:


  • f.r. says:

    Thanks for reminding me that new perspectives, although challenging to our comfort zone, can be a breath of fresh air and a true motivator. I will take the message from your notes on feedback to heart and direct my energies appropriately. Thanks for sharing.

  • jan says:

    Thanks, Tara! Just wanted to let you know you reached me! Love the healthy, useful post.

  • Marcie says:

    I can’t tell you how this has resonated with me. At a time when I’m asking for feedback..and trying to learn from what I receive – this comes as quite a gift.

  • Amy says:

    I didn’t comment right away because I needed some time to take this all in. After a week of thinking on it I can only say that this came at the perfect time for me. This past weekend I had a chance to interpret lower than expected business sales as a failure on my part or as a sign that I haven’t yet found *my* market. I truly think that I would have gone into a downward spiral of what-am-I-doing-wrong if I hadn’t read this article. Thank you.

  • Jeanene says:

    This is probably the single most useful and life-changing piece of information that I’ve heard in 30 years. Thank you for passing it along. I only wish I had understood this years ago but nevermind, that’s in the past. Now I can use it going forward and I can tell you it is already making a difference in my life, both professionally and personally. Keep up the good work and thanks again.

  • […] both written this week about their reactions to some hard-to-take feedback they were given, and Tara Sophia Mohr has written a very interesting article on the topic that puts a slightly different spin on […]

  • […] just in case you need to be reminded too. And if you’re feeling stung by a critic or critics, read this from Tara Sophia Mohr about the nature of feedback; it’ll make you feel better.) […]

  • Ali says:

    This article was ENORMOUSLY helpful and useful in allowing me to look at feedback in a new and positive way. It confirmed some things I thought I knew and from this day forward I will gladly seek feedback in order to continue to improve and get stronger in the things I seek to accomplish. This was certainly a boost to my day. Thank you!

  • There have been three opportunities for me to read this from you and I have re-read it EACH time and EACH time I have gleaned something new from it. Feedback falls back to your idea of serving the people in your path and listening to them. You ALWAYS inspire me Tara and seem to be talking to me at the time I need to hear it. Our paths have crossed for a reason. Thank you for this empowerment and enjoy Toronto!

  • Andie says:

    I found this post really helpful and thought provoking, thank you Tara.

  • grace ruvimbo chirenje says:

    Great work Tara, this post made me grow and now have a lovely insight on feedback. thank you!

  • Kavitha says:

    Nice insightful post Tara. Thanks to Cheryl also – bounced upon Four agreements and found that useful too 🙂

  • Mandy says:

    How perceptive. What light! Thank you!

  • Monique says:

    Very true. Even though I have known this for quite some time, I still find it difficult to treat feedback this way. Especially when it means a lot to me. Thanks for the reminder, Tara, I will definitely help me!!!

  • Mary Ann says:

    I love this point of view. A very important paradigm shift. Looking forward to meeting and hearing you speak on your visit to Toronto.

  • stephen says:

    Wow, talk about turning a concept on its head. Well done Tara

  • Thank you. I started writing more pithy responses, with examples, but really, I want to say that this reached me. That I am sharing it. That I am grateful.

  • […] a recent post, Tara Sophia Mohr wrote a beautiful piece about feedback. (Do you sense a timely reminder from the universe here?) Her primary point is […]

  • Renée says:

    Thanks for the post, Tara. It’s great, of course, thought provoking, comforting, inspiring. And you know what? I spent more time reading the 65 comments that came after it – they really helped me to get a deeper understanding than if I had simply read your post and moved on. That’s the power of feedback to a blog post! Thanks to all the responders, too, sincerely.

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