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Negative Feedback and "the 95"

Fourteen years ago, my Dad taught me something that continues to stick with me regarding getting past negative feedback. We referred to it afterwards as “the 95”.

I had given a talk to a local Chicagoland event. I was a novice to speaking, but this one went really well. The attendees circled me afterwards to ask questions and give kudos. I felt great.

But then, some dude came up to me, got in my face, and asked, “Why did you have to use the word ‘sh*t’ during your talk?”

I replied, “I was quoting someone”.
He replied, “Well congratulations. You ruined it”.

That’s what I remember most. Not the kudos. This guy.

Upset, I told my Dad about it.

My Dad laid this out on me. He said, “It’s math. For every 95 people who think you’re awesome, 5 will think you suck. Always. Sometimes you meet the five all at once. Focus on the 95.”

This always stuck with me. Why do we focus so much on the negative? Well, it traces back to our evolutionary roots. In our brain's priority list, survival comes first. It's saps our brain's focus. We are wired to focus our attention and emotion on the potential of a snake in the grass way before the beautiful landscape all around it. The more attention we give something, the more we're likely to retain it. In other words, negative lodges in our long-term memory more naturally than positive.

In our brain's priority list, survival comes first. It's saps our brain's focus. We are wired to focus our attention and emotion on the potential of a snake in the grass way before the beautiful landscape all around it.

We have to force ourselves to override that wiring to ensure we're not wasting valuable resources trying to be all things to all people.

Ask enough people if the sky is blue, and you'll find those who say no. Address the negative concerns, and use them to improve. Ensure the 5% doesn’t grow. But focus your energies on the 95%. Those are the group who will stay, invest more, and tell their friends.

(for the context of the s-word story during my talk, see below)

I used to teach cold calling techniques. Essentially, old-school techniques which, if taught today, would get me laughed out of a room. However, I was explaining to the audience how, when someone picks up the phone during a cold call, you should never start with “How are you?”. The answers you get back will throw you off.

In the talk, I gave an example from a call I was auditing. The woman making the pure cold-call (Sara - to a guy named Tom) successfully connected with the target. Sara was nervous, using a new technique and knowing that I was listening.

Tom (the target): “Hello, this is Tom.”
Sara (the cold caller): “Hi Tom, this is Sara from XYX Company. How are you?”
Target Tom: “Shitty! What do you want?”
Sara...in her nervousness: “Great! Well the reason for the call is…”

That was the quote with the word sh*t in it. Apparently that was offensive to this guy. I get it. Kind of.
 

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