Here’s How to Handle Conflicting Feedback

4 min read • Aug 17, 2021 • Grant Olsen

It’s important to have people in our lives who we can turn to for advice. Examples include business mentors, trusted friends, religious leaders, therapists, or family members. Sometimes we already know what we want to do and are just looking for confirmation. Other times, we are clueless and legitimately need direction.

When facing 2 diametrically opposed options, the guidance of others becomes even more crucial. It’s reminiscent of the classic song from The Clash:

Should I stay or should I go now?

Should I stay or should I go now?

If I go there will be trouble

And if I stay it will be double

So ya gotta let me know

Should I cool it or should I blow?

Should I stay or should I go now?

If I go there will be trouble

And if I stay it will be double

So ya gotta let me know

Should I stay or should I go?

We often find ourselves in similar situations. Should we keep our day job or quit? Should we discontinue a struggling product or try to rescue it? Should we expand our office space or work with what we already have?

The situation is heightened for entrepreneurs because of the level of personal investment. You have spent a lot of money and dedicated countless hours to your passion. So you want to make sure you’re making the right decisions and protecting everything that you’ve already sacrificed to get where you are today. And that gets tricky when you get conflicting advice.

“Though it’s known that you shouldn’t listen to all criticism and advice you receive as an entrepreneur, how do you respond when your trusted advocates, mentors, and investors give you conflicting advice?” asks small business expert Tori Utley. “It can put you in a difficult place as an entrepreneur with much to question and consider. It’s helpful to have mentors that will help you navigate the uncertainties of startup and professional life while giving you meaningful insight when you need it most. But when insights from equally qualified, equally invested, and equally credible people start to conflict, it’s you, the entrepreneur, who must ultimately make a decision.”

Trust us—there will be crucial moments in your business career where the advice you receive couldn’t be more different. Here are some tips for managing the contradictions so you can find the best possible way to move forward:

Take Time to Reflect

OK, you’ve received feedback that seems to conflict. Start by allowing time to process the various insights. You might even realize that you’ve misinterpreted some of the feedback and that it is more complementary than you originally thought.

Get a Third, Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth Opinion

The funny thing about a stalemate is that it can quickly turn into a landslide victory. Suppose you talk to 2 trusted advisors and get differing opinions. The situation might look dire, but if you talked to 3 other folks and they all agreed with 1 of the original opinions, you could take this near-total consensus as the ultimate green light.

Test the Advice

When possible, it can be helpful to test the advice you get. Let’s say that 1 adviser tells you to go all-in on social ads for your product launch, while another adviser says that display ads are the only worthwhile option. Rather than toss 1 of these advertising tactics, do a series of small tests and find the winner.

Look for the Reasons Behind the Advice

There will be times when you might be surprised by a differing opinion from 1 of your mentors or colleagues. Take a step back and consider why they feel the way they do. A person’s background and circumstances shape their views, and you might realize that the advice is less relevant to you in this particular situation than advice from another source.

Stay True to Yourself

Your gut has gotten you this far, so don’t tune it out now. It’s essential that you gather insights from respected sources, then follow through on the action that feels best. Nobody on earth understands your business better than you, so it stands to reason that you should be the ultimate decision-maker.

Embracing the Beauty of Conflicting Feedback

It can be understandably frustrating to get contradictions when all you want is a clear sign pointing you in the best direction. But it’s important to have differing opinions in life because they introduce you to new ways of thinking and challenge your assumptions.

Your small business needs insights to thrive, not an echo chamber. So be sure to always seek out feedback and opinions from your team of trusted advisors. As long as you use proper evaluation strategies and then follow your gut, you’ll be able to lead your business to a brighter tomorrow.

Grant Olsen

Grant Olsen is a writer specializing in small business loans, leadership skills, and growth strategies. He is a contributing writer for KSL 5 TV, where his articles have generated more than 6 million page views, and has been featured on FitSmallBusiness.com and ModernHealthcare.com. Grant is also the author of the book "Rhino Trouble." He has a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University.