How Feedback from Negative People Impacts Learning Capabilities

Self confidence is the primary motivator for learning. Individuals who believe in their ability to learn are more likely to try new skills and subjects. Parents and teachers who encourage learning provide external motivation needed to learn new skills and subjects. At the same time, feedback from negative people can have a devastating affect on the learning capabilities of others. As social beings, the opinion of others is frequently a deciding factor in activities pursued. 

Cycle of self doubt

Confident individuals are more resilient to criticism than those who experience doubt. Learning a new skill, individuals lacking self confidence are more likely to seek the approval of others to maintain their motivation. When these unconfident individuals receive criticism from negative people, the little motivation and confidence they had can be destroyed, ending the learning process. This cycle of self doubt perpetuates itself, wrecking havoc on the learning process.

Self doubt & self confidence 

Without confidence in their ability to achieve, learners are less likely to invest the time needed to learn and practice a new skill. Receiving feedback from negative people, many learners become discouraged and doubt their ability to learn. These criticisms can take many forms, eroding the confidence of individual trying to learn.

Self-fulfilling prophecies

A person’s outlook, belief system and expectations have a major affect on learning capabilities. Individuals raised in critical, negative environments adopt false beliefs about their abilities. Believing themselves to be incapable of learning, they fail to put out the necessary effort to succeed, furthering their false beliefs and limiting their ability to learn in the future. Research has demonstrated that the expectations of teachers toward a range of students alters their interactions at the subconscious level, and that this differing feedback “consequently widen[s] the gap between relatively low- and high-achieving students.”

Brain plasticity

Brain plasticity refers to the mind’s ability to adapt and change as a result of environmental demands. As the environment encourages or discourages certain behaviors, the brain strengthens or weakens neuronal connections, increasing or decreasing the likelihood of specific actions, respectively. Learners who receive negative responses to their efforts at learning literally change the structure of their brain, reducing confidence in their ability to learn. Simply put, thoughts run a rabbit trail in the brain. The more often a path is followed, the more likely it is to reoccur.

Affirmations & denials

Affirmations are emotional encouragement to think or act in a certain way. Denials act in the opposite way, discouraging certain beliefs or actions. When an individual receives these denials, they begin to doubt themselves and their ability to learn. These doubts interfere with the learning process, which, in turn, creates more doubt.

Negative feedback can either be constructive or destructive. Confident individuals are better able to accept criticism constructively, considering the source and comparing it to what they already believe about themselves. More hesitant individuals, however, can be devastated by negative feedback. Excessive or abusive criticism rewires the brain to expect negative outcomes, eliminating the motivation to learn.