Learning to not React to Feedback on our Work – the Power of Observing, not Absorbing

Have you ever found yourself feeling frustrated, criticised and possibly insulted or offended when receiving feedback on your work from a colleague or supervisor that is not what you expected – particularly feedback that is, or seems to be, somewhat critical?

Have you noticed that when receiving this type of feedback in written form, such as via email, your reaction can be immediate and even stronger than if sitting down with the person? It’s like there is no filter on your reaction and you can fume away in silence, or go into a spin about your abilities, often letting the emotions build although they may never be expressed.

I recently had an opportunity to view email communication very differently when I inadvertently had the same document reviewed by a colleague on separate days, but received vastly different feedback – via email. What unfolded has shown me that we are constantly offered the opportunity to deepen our understanding of ourselves and others through observing and not absorbing. I have also come to realise that, perhaps contrary to the beliefs subscribed to in many workplaces, I do have a choice as to whether I respond or whether I react to such feedback.

At the time, both my colleague and I were faced with multiple deadlines, including the submission date for the document I was working on. In the first email I received, the comments were less than favourable, highlighting a few areas of improvement and an issue to be resolved before submission. With less than 2 days to turn it around I could feel a sense of panic rising in me, but I took a deep, gentle breath and replied to the email that I was feeling somewhat confused about the comments as I felt I had been following direction from another colleague also working on the project.

The next day I received another email with further comments on the document. My colleague expressed that while it still needed work, it could be submitted and revised later. He also thought that perhaps he had been looking at a previous version of the document when he reviewed it the day before. I checked and it was the same version reviewed twice, but clearly at different times, in fact on different days. As I sat with this I could feel how in one instance he had likely been very stressed, tired and frazzled and on the next occasion not so much, as there was a different feel to the email and his response.

We can all relate to having ‘bad’ days, but are we aware of how this affects everything we do and the people we interact with? What I could feel clearly through this experience is that we take every moment of the day to our next activity be it reviewing a document, sending an email, reading an email, having a meeting, preparing food, exercising and so on. It follows then that if we are feeling frustrated, tired, stressed or equally, joyful, gentle, rested, calm, then this ‘quality’ is actually present in whatever activity we are doing. If we then accept “if everything is energy, therefore, everything is BECAUSE of energy” (1) as presented by Serge Benhayon, then does it not make sense that the ‘quality’ we are in, or our emotions, are affecting others, be they felt or not?

I could have chosen to react to the content of the first email and I know from past experiences what that would have looked like: I would have gotten upset, felt that I was not good enough at this stuff, and felt I would never get the document submitted on time and possibly even given up. So what was different this time?

On this occasion I took a moment to feel and observe the quality or emotion behind the email, as well as my own quality at the time. I also acknowledged that I felt hurt by the comments and the way they were delivered and I took a moment to feel the hurt. On reflection, I realise that in letting myself feel the hurt, my body remained open, gentle and calm and then it was simple to respond, not react. Often we want to avoid feeling any hurt and we react by hardening ourselves as a form of protection: we get frustrated, we lash out, we might withdraw. In this state we are more likely to react to everything, as everything is perceived as a threat, that is, something that might hurt us. Add to this the workplace environment, which is not particularly supportive of employees showing or expressing their feelings and thus increasing the likelihood that we are in protection and reaction.

This experience has provided me with an opportunity to reflect on the importance of not reacting, of not absorbing or taking on, whatever emotions or energy come with any form of communication, including via emails. To get caught up in reaction is to put our bodies into a stress reaction, which does not support us, those around us, or our work. I have also been reminded of my responsibility with regards to my own energetic quality in every moment, to ensure that I can observe and not absorb and therefore, respond not react. It is up to me to ensure that if I’ve had a ‘bad’ moment that it is not taken to my next activity or it will snowball into a ‘bad’ day.

I also find myself considering how much it could support us all in our workplaces if we were all to explore the wisdom of those few simple words, “Observe and not absorb” (2) and be more open to our own and others’ feelings at work.

By Anonymous


  1. Serge Benhayon, Esoteric Teachings & Revelations, p 220, UniMed Publishing, 2011.
  2. Unimed Living. (2017). The Universal Medicine New Year’s Message for 2011 | Unimed Living. [online] Available at: http://www.unimedliving.com/serge-benhayon/the-seer/readings-humanity/the-universal-medicine-new-year-message-for-2011.html [Accessed 25 Sep. 2017].

Related Reading:
Responsibility in the Workplace
To Observe and Not Absorb
Understanding – is this the Key to Sharing our Greatest Form of Love?

489 thoughts on “Learning to not React to Feedback on our Work – the Power of Observing, not Absorbing

  1. Anonymous, this is really interesting to read, I can feel how so often in workplaces we react unnecessarily without reading what is truly going on, for instance that someone is having a bad day, if we simply understood and instead responded there would likely be less hurts and upset and emotions in our workplaces.

    1. Bringing true understanding to our workplace makes all the difference and offers healing to the environment and the people working there.

  2. “Observe and not absorb”is such a fundamental teaching that would ease the lives of so many people in the workplace today – Teachers, nurses, doctors, complementary therapists etc. taking on others problems seems to be almost hardwired into our psyche. If we do not fall into the sympathy trap, which exhausts us, we can get labeled ‘hard’, when in fact we are preserving our energy so we can be there for the long haul…….

  3. When we do not express at the time what is begging for us to give voice to, then we serve only to stockpile an energy of discontent that in time needs release of this tension within.

  4. ‘It’s like there is no filter on your reaction and you can fume away in silence, or go into a spin about your abilities, often letting the emotions build although they may never be expressed.’ – You have observed this very accurately and I can relate to this as a way I would often react in the past and I was even considering that to be not only ok, but normal. Today I know that such a reaction would be harmful not only to the person/s it is directed at but myself and everybody else equally.

  5. This situation you describe really shows the importance of staying steady within ourselves and when we feel the feedback is overly negative without a reason, it is important to not react straight away and give it space. I often found then it comes around in the end. Most complications and stress in our bodies is a result from reacting and getting driven to get it done instead of reading the situation and doing what is truly needed.

  6. As long as we need someone´s approval or things to be a certain way to feel okay within ourselves we will react when our expectations are not met.

    1. Yes I have experienced how I project out and onto the other person so as not to simply feel the hurt. I look for ways to hurt back first. This hardens me because I have chosen to protect myself. All way too late after the fact, rather than be vulnerable and admit to myself the hurt that I feel.

  7. Acknowledging our reaction or response to something is really important, as this helps us to understand the outplay thereafter. For example, getting stressed or upset about an email can cause us to feel frustrated about other things later on in the week, it may create seemingly ‘random’ complications at work or an underlying feeling of stress. These are usually the things that make up ‘just one of those bad days’, but what if these days were actually outplays of choices we made at another time?

  8. Learning to observe instead of reacting takes a bit of practice. Something that I have observed is that reactions can be quite subtle and when we react we then move into a familiar pattern that gives us relief or somehow makes us feel better. I familiar pattern for me is to eat. I have realised that I eat from reaction sometimes. This is really interesting to observe because the hunger I feel doesn’t make sense either. I may have only eaten a short time before and the hunger is almost ravenous, and I can eat ravenously. This is still a very much work in process for me as I recognise that this is not about food, but about an old familiar ‘goto’ pattern that I have used. This is where observation is key, for when I observe myself I am not judging myself and I see more clearly the pattern. The moment I judge or make rules I am feeding (pun intended) my reaction and the pattern. Fascinating stuff.

    1. It is fascinating Jennifer. what I have a tendency to do when I react is go into my head and starting thinking things over and over, chuntering I call it. This stops me being with me and observing, but I am aware of this and am working with it and it has reduced a great deal, it is still a familiar pattern I can slip into though. I get myself back to me, with my body, then observe what triggered it and see it what it is presenting, can take time sometimes other times it’s quite quick, and from this if I feel to I can respond and express.

      1. The word ‘chuntering’ is such a great description. It sounds like a kind of disgruntled grumbling and a train chugging along. It also reminds me of the word churning which I recently came across as a describing what people who hoard do- continuously move items around a house but never clear the house of them.

      2. Ruth, what a funny word ‘chuntering’ is. I love it. Its not a chatter, but a chunter, that goes on and on, making the groove in the record even deeper, without a way off that spot.

    2. This is such clarity and awareness around the subject of reaction. Thank you Jennifer. We have our ‘goto’s’ and it is important to catch them.I wonder if the majority of times we go to eat is about reaction to something that has happened.

  9. What I have noticed is the more connected I am feeling with my body, the less likely i am to react . There is something quite profound in realising this, as it shows how very much life around the human body is constructed to constantly pull you out of yourself .. to be distracted by things, which then this leaves the door wide open for the human being to be on the back foot… to be at the mercy of anything that comes your way.

    1. It’s a bit like being in the eye of the storm. It might seem extreme to consider everything around us as being a potential storm – yet on an energetic level it’s totally different we have just decided we aren’t going to recognise it, but we don’t stop feeling it.

  10. As soon as we react to any body or any situation we harden our body and go into protection. We then become a vessel for the wrong energy to come through us and we do not respond with love. We need to read the energy so we can call the energy out but keep on loving the person.

  11. Anonymous, this article has been really supportive for me, I had a situation where I felt very hurt by someones comments to me, I allowed myself to feel this hurt and to be honest about this, this felt very natural and I could feel that this is how children are, if they are hurt then usually this is felt and expressed, this allowed me to calmly feedback to the person, without reaction about how the comments had felt.

  12. I have been particularly aware recently of this reactionary hardness or protection that can set in and then filters everything we are experiencing so everything starts to be perceived as a threat or in a way that is not actually true.

  13. “I realise that in letting myself feel the hurt, my body remained open, gentle and calm and then it was simple to respond, not react.” This is gold. In letting ourselves feel the hurt we get to feel that the hurt is of our own creation. Another cannot hurt us, it’s our reaction to them that is when the hurt comes in.

  14. The key may be to stay in our fullness whether what we get is feedback, confirmation or somebody’s reaction or even fully considered and executed attack. To not react but to stay as we are – now for the learning of this as it is possible.

  15. To not react but rather be aware of what is at play is to surrender to the bigger picture. When our bodies are in a cycle of responding to what is needed, then reacting isn’t even a choice anymore.

  16. What we offer in the workplace is not about the outcomes, even though we would all think it is, it is actually about who we are and what we bring to the workplace but simply being who we are.

  17. During the last financial meltdown, Enron fired all of their staff with a text message. How many more people affected by this single message, beyond the recipients? The reaction from a single event sent giant waves across the world.

  18. ‘I also acknowledged that I felt hurt by the comments and the way they were delivered and I took a moment to feel the hurt.’ This is a step that is so important in not going into reaction that I have recognised too. It is the protection that we seek in what we do in the reaction to not feel the hurt which already exists. In allowing ourselves to feel the hurt we can stop the reaction and change what happens in such a situation the next time.

  19. “Have you noticed that when receiving this type of feedback in written form, such as via email, your reaction can be immediate and even stronger than if sitting down with the person?” This is so true Anonymous. Whereas if and when we actually take the time to talk things through wiht the person face to face and express what needs to be said, the energy of emotions is immediatley dispersed and has no where to go except straight out of the body.

  20. My relationship with reaction is changing… it used to be volatile, chaotic and immediately blurted out. When I feel a reaction in me these days, it is extremely uncomfortable (which I actually take as a positive because it is out of whack with how I normally feel), but I curiously and carefully ask myself what is going on, what part I have played in whatever situation is going on and whether what has happened has triggered something unresolved that I am carrying about with me. This is all building on my understanding of myself which is supporting me to take responsibility for how I am in the world. Ongoing learning which I am enjoying.

  21. Our actions are an end product of a series of movements that we have put in place determined by the source of energy that we are aligned to – either all that is love, or all that is not. These are the only two sources from which we can fuel our every thought, word or action that follows thereafter. If we stay with love, we will have all that we need to respond to the situation at hand, no matter how much it may escalate. If we withdraw from this source, we align ourselves to the other source (not-love) and subsequently will get lost in the reaction on offer.

  22. I’m noticing how stress has such a huge factor on how people relate to another. When I am at the receiving end I get a very clear lesson in how it feels and how there is nothing more important than how we treat each other – something I can remember when I get a little stressy and need to stop, reconnect with myself and the love we all share so as to bring that through. It’s the quality in which what I do that makes the difference.

  23. “It is up to me to ensure that if I’ve had a ‘bad’ moment that it is not taken to my next activity or it will snowball into a ‘bad’ day.” I am reading this having just come out of the ‘bad day’. What I am particularly aware of is the negative snowball or domino effect it can have on myself and others around me. My key is to not make it personal-if I do, then I am gone.

  24. Taking responsibility to observe and not react to what has been presented in our lives allows us the opportunity to become more aware of the way life constellates, and seeing the bigger picture of how our experiences are the result of our movements up to that point in life.

  25. Anonymous, this is a great question; ‘We can all relate to having ‘bad’ days, but are we aware of how this affects everything we do and the people we interact with?’ I am becoming aware of just how much the way I am feeling affects those around me, I have noticed if I’m having a bad day that Im less playful, less joyful, less patient and less understanding and I have noticed that how I am is often reflected back to me in how others are to me,

  26. Interesting how we don’t have a filter on what we read in the same way as we might when someone is speaking to us. In one way we are more open and less protected however we also forget some of the need to discern the quality that the words come with when written.

  27. I am receiving so much feedback at work at the moment. I am opening to a new level of responsibility and therefore all the gaps and cracks are being highlighted. It is so exposing. I could react and take it all very seriously and feel really bad about myself. But I am choosing to see it as an opportunity for growth in every way. I am taking it lightly, observing myself and my mistakes, sometimes laughing at them. It is really great to be on a big growing edge.

  28. When we observe, rather than absorb emotions, we’re better placed to read what is going and support self and others.

  29. For most of my life, I was often devastated by feedback, and saw it as an attack on me. My reaction would be silence, withdrawal, self berating, feelings of humiliation and hurt. I believed I had failed in some way. Such joy to have left this ‘old over-sensitive self behind’ Now, I embrace constructive feedback and see it as essential to life and a great source of learning.

  30. We all deserve to be supported by those who have higher roles and have more in experience in our chosen field but due to job demands and life stresses it can be hard to communicate – hence we forget the responsibility of nurturing a person whilst helping them to improve their skills and expand.

  31. Seeing the many ways that people can react to feedback at work, I would absolutely agree it is our choice how we react or respond. It may not feel like a choice when we are in it and the autopilot response takes over – based on past hurts etc. But even our patterns of hurts are ones we have chosen as we find some form of ‘success’ in them.

  32. Only when we know ourselves for who we are we will be able to not react because otherwise that what we are not, will react to being questioned for not being what it is expected to be, by something or someone.

  33. ‘Often we want to avoid feeling any hurt and we react by hardening ourselves as a form of protection: we get frustrated, we lash out, we might withdraw.’ When we allow ourselves to feel our hurts we have the opportunity to deepen our understanding, heal and close the opening that takes us to reactions in the first place,

  34. It is so true that reacting to situations like feedback from others just puts us into a stress reaction where we often start our own self-critical loop. Observing and not judging allows for the space to consider the whole of the situation, such as what is happening for the person giving you the feedback and also for ourselves.

  35. I had a similar experience recently and changed my response to a colleague whom has from time to time told me what I should do and not do in emails. It felt very freeing to have changed myself so that what she did no longer affected me.

  36. What a beautiful sharing of allowing true understanding for ourselves and everyone around us and the difference this makes in our lives wherever we are. “I realise that in letting myself feel the hurt, my body remained open, gentle and calm and then it was simple to respond, not react.” This is so much more loving and caring of ourselves and others .

  37. It is interesting to ponder how we can feel and know things are going on but learn to observe them more rather than react to them. I have found that I still feel the yuck, it can not be avoided, it is is all over the place, but how we respond to it, is the key. It is something I am refining all of the time.

  38. There are two kinds of reactions – one is reacting to something that we know is not of truth, love or harmony, the other is reacting to how the first reaction makes us feel and us not wanting to deal with it.

  39. When we observe and bring our awareness to what we’re feeling/ sensing/ reading between the lines in the way another has expressed and what it brings up in us then we give ourselves the opportunity to respond with true clarity and grace, rather than just add to a whirlpool of emotion…

  40. What if no comment or feedback was personal, but simply something for us to learn from? And what if we approached feedback for others as not a criticism but an opportunity to help another person evolve?

  41. “We can all relate to having ‘bad’ days, but are we aware of how this affects everything we do and the people we interact with?” This brings an enormous level of responsibility to our interactions and really should be our normal. It would offer an ease within the body which can be taken as medicine, medicine that could be called preventative or simply unimposing on the body which means the body can get on with the work it needs to do without over compensating for our choices.

  42. I wonder if we would have reacted differently had the feedback been ‘good’ but also not actually right??! I hope that makes sense! The sort of feedback I know I have given, that I wasn’t really paying attention but just had to get it off my ‘to do’ list? Equally unhelpful feedback but because it agrees with what we have submitted it is more willingly accepted and skipped over. Just a thought to add to the discussion here 🙂

  43. To identify oneself with one´s work is supposed to be a value as we will be engaged and committed to what we are doing; that as such may be a good thing but being identified with what one does also sets us up to react when things don´t go the way we want them to be, ie we need something back from what we are investing in, usually recognition, success, confirmation of doing well. So it may come down to being committed to one´s work and at the same time not be identified by it, then any feedback or critique can be considered and reassessed without reaction.

  44. The art of observation can be a life’s work, but it needn’t be arduous or hard, although challenging yes, because it rocks away at the basis upon which you stand, asking and questioning you all the time to reconsider every point of contact you have with the world. But this can be a joy, a simple uncomplicated joy, as in observation I have found therein lives the glory of each person for who they truly are.

  45. I can relate to this line after a recent experience “I realise that in letting myself feel the hurt, my body remained open, gentle and calm and then it was simple to respond, not react”. By allowing myself to speak up in the moment with how I felt, allowing myself to feel the hurt and nurture myself as this happened, and understanding that the energy coming through the person was not them, that they were wobbling away from their natural essence, all of this supported me and I found my body stayed open and so did I to the person. Taking care of myself within the situation was key, as was knowing the person’s essence and that they are simply a vessel for energy.

  46. ‘On reflection, I realise that in letting myself feel the hurt, my body remained open, gentle and calm and then it was simple to respond, not react.’ – I know well what you are saying here, in the past reaction was often my behaviour, today I know the difference and can feel the harm of the contraction if I react and harden my body, as opposed to remaining open and present, even when I feel hurt.

  47. I know I have become more aware of the way I am communicating. Sometimes I can be a little brash or to abrupt and when I re-read it I can feel the massive impact that this has. Now I take my time and re-read through and also reflect as to what I have gone into and absorbed for this to be a way I was expressing.

  48. Reacting to feed back with understanding makes all the difference and learning to do this by observing and not absorbing really is a revolutionary change around in our lives allowing so much wisdom instead of the harmful reactions we can live in otherwise and is very powerful and freeing .

  49. We learn so much about ourselves when we get feedback from another. It can be easy to focus our attention on the person giving the feedback, but our response shows us our relationship with ourselves.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s