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?

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

  1. The more I allow myself to observe and listen to what another is saying the less I find myself reacting. I can then either take on board what they have said and learn from it or I can see it as effectively trying to bring me down. I have learnt that it is going to really be one or the other. Either it will be truly supportive or it will have a poisionous undertone to it even though it may be sounding helpful and the person cares it all depends with what energy it is coming with. So then the more I read the energy the clearer things become and it is no longer personal rather a choice of energy. It makes things much simpler and also gives me a greater opportunity to learn especially when the person is presenting truth to me but I may not want to hear it!

  2. Feedback often comes with a charge and it is very difficult not to react to negative statements, however true, delivered with frustration, rage, anger or blame. We can learn enormously when we keep our time in reaction to a minimum and to understand the underlying truth to the feedback, whatever that is. With some practice this becomes enormously empowering.

  3. I love being given the opportunity to understand people and situations more, so it is important for me to stay observing, ‘that we are constantly offered the opportunity to deepen our understanding of ourselves and others through observing and not absorbing.’

  4. Any form of reaction is extremely harming not only to ourselves but also to everyone. The only way to stop reacting is to bring understanding.

  5. Our living way has a clear impact well beyond ourselves. We share it with the people that we interact with on a daily basis. It affects us and them. Annoying and irresponsible as it is, such a generous sharing offers us a great opportunity for others to learn/practice holding themselves no matter what.

  6. If we observe, that is reading what is going on, and take everything as a possibility to evolve, then we will not react to any situation. We will have an understanding, even appreciation for what is offered.

  7. The trouble is that most of us go into our workplaces already loaded and on the defence for what we anticipate will come at us.
    We know that what we have all created – because we are all complicit in this – are workplaces that are toxic, void of any real care for the people in them. And so we go in, in reaction to this because of course it impacts us.
    But in reaction we absorb and of course add to the toxicity we are reacting to in the first place.

  8. ‘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? ‘ So true Anon, by energetic law our bad days can effect everyone else’s as well.

    1. Very true Jenny and we do all know that, even though we may say “I am just having a bad day” as an excuse. It important to reflect on what we ourselves have taken on that has resulted “in the bad day”. Its our choices that have resulted in that.

  9. When you connect to purpose, the state of the world and what we are truly here to do, you can’t help but see it’s not limited to delivering projects or reports on time, but involves us reflecting Love. When we connect to that there’s no space for taking things personally – it’s a huge waste of valuable space in this life. Thank you Anonymous.

  10. When we starting reading situations it gets fun. Even bad situations are ok. As by reading the situation you stay observing and then you see the whole picture and the Why this is chosen. So you see that what occurs has nothing to do with you.

  11. Our quality is taken into everything that we do, ‘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.’ How important is the quality we choose to live in then?

  12. “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” – so true Anonymous, if only we could actually see the energy we are leaving behind, littering and indeed equally gracing people with too, the world would become truly responsible.

  13. How awesome it is to give ourselves the space to express what is needed and also to observe others within this space too. I have also found when I have received feedback from a work colleague particularly via email to pause before replying and observe the energy within the email as everything holds an energetic imprint. I sometimes also find that words are not always needed as our movements are also an expression that holds the same energy too.

  14. We can not underestimate our capacity to observe. Its not about standing back and not being involved but allowing someone else to be in their own emotional state – whatever that maybe, without taking it on. The more we can observe, we begin to see the layers of our own reactions so that we can say no to reacting and remain in observation. Being in observation is a blessing for oneself, for taking on and owning the emotions of others is toxic to ourselves. But it is also a blessing for the other as they get the opportunity to feel what they have chosen too.

  15. We cannot hide and pretend that everything is ok when energetically it isn’t even when we claim that we do not verbalise it. We may not go on or harp on about things but it is fact that we are affected by everyone and everything whether seen or unseen.

  16. I think if someone gives us genuine feedback from the perspective of helping us grow and evolve it’s actually amazing, I think when we react it’s when we feel judged. One of my life principles is that no matter what situation I’m in I utilise it to the max, so I learn, grow and become a stronger and more loving person, and this is definitely a principle I turn to in difficult moments.

    1. Could it be that when we feel judged by another it is a reflection being shown to us of the judgement and criticism that we can sometimes give towards ourselves? We are essentially reacting towards how we have been living in relationship to ourselves… I know this has certainly been the case with me.

  17. Letting down my guard and being more open, honest and sometimes therefore vulnerable with the people I work with has had an amazing impact on my sense of well being and my love for the work I do.

  18. Life is like a play. We buy into the story line and find ourselves getting aggravated and antsy, we need to look around at the stage and be reminded it’s not all it seems. Thank you Anonymous for the prompt here.

  19. ” 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 ”
    Feeling the hurt is a huge step in understanding the fear of rejection, for rejection is our ultimate nightmare.

  20. Observing ourselves without judgment (reaction) in situations provides such a great foundation for being the same way with others.

  21. I can relate to the workplace not being accepting of feelings and our sensitivity that everyone has. But do I allow my feelings to be fully known to those I work with? Or do I work hard at keeping them contained. I feel the latter is true at this moment but I know I can share my feelings with others so what are the conditions I have accepted that say I can’t do that at work?

    1. I recently shared with my work colleagues that I had learnt a lot about myself in how I had been dealing with feedback on a big project I had been working on and that it was clearly an ongoing process as I kept discovering things about myself I hadn’t considered before. The meeting was very different from that moment on as it seemed we all got an opportunity to own our own responses or reactions rather than blame anyone else when we discussed our next event. It was quite a lesson to observe the power of simply sharing with out indulging.

  22. In a recent conversation with someone, she expressed to me how I had upset her, for which I instantly took responsibility for and thereafter changed my ways to be more honouring and respectful. The growth in our relationship which has followed has been beautiful, there is an honesty between us which I treasure. And I know that this is due in part to my willingness to be accountable for myself – knowing that I am not perfect and will often need to be called to account for my behaviours, but that this is not a bad thing, it is just part of being human, being in groups, and learning.

  23. ‘or go into a spin about your abilities’… it used to take the slightest comment, not always directed at me, to trip me into a downward spiral of self-doubt and self-criticism, feeding the beast that I carried around of lack of self-worth. I can still feel the residue of this when I am challenged in any relationship (work, home, friends) but building respect for the qualities we all bring to the table, arrests this old pattern and leaves me much clearer in each situation to not react but to learn, deepen my understanding of everything at play and stay open in my interactions with others.

  24. To go into reaction causes a huge ripple throughout our body as the hurt that has been triggered begins to awaken and expand. As most can probably attest to, it feels horrible at that moment so we then tend to go into self-protection mode, justification, explanation, anything to say we have done nothing ‘wrong’. And unless we are able to separate the hurt from the initial issue the ripples from the reaction will continue to flow and grow. ‘Learning not to react’ is one of the most supportive lessons we could possibly learn.

  25. We can learn a lot from feedback if we do not give our power away to the person who is giving us the feedback.

  26. I learn every time I open an email or speak to people that what we hear and what is being said can be interpreted in many different ways. What we say and how we say it can be very different to how it is perceived. Observing and not absorbing is medicine!

  27. The justification game comes into full force when we are not observing what is offered in the workplace from the feedback of our roles. When we observe and feel the intentions of the communication, we can often read another level that is not offered to us when we go straight into reactions or hurts.

  28. This highlights something I’ve noticed recently in myself and those around me … if we take things personally we each come from our own version of right and nothing changes, but if we can take a breathe and allow ourselves the space to observe and understand any hurts we may be feeling we open up the space for a very different type of response, and we find a different way to be and work with another.

  29. When we feel down and out, stressed or overwhelmed, we often blame our To Do list and the fact that things are just ‘too busy’, but could we instead address the QUALITY rather than quantity of what we are doing and assess whether in fact our activities and conversations are draining us because we are absorbing rather than observing life?

  30. It is true that how we are affects everyone – as is highlighted here – it is so evident that we can be in 2 different states on different days depending on what we are taking on or reaction to or not reacting to.

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