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May 20, 2014

How To Deal with Criticism

We’ve all been there at some point in our lives; we receive word that someone’s thoughts or ideas aren’t in line with ours and we feel devastated. It may come in the form of an un-like on Facebook, an un-subscribe from our newsletter or even worse, a written word, clear as day; I don’t like your product or your business. Ouch!

There’s criticism you can take in and use to improve and then there’s the kind that’s just meant to hurt.
Here are 10 tips for receiving, sorting and responding to criticism:

1) Be aware of your defense mechanism

Our initial reaction is going to be to defend ourselves; it’s just how we’re built. Like the stages of grieving, allow yourself to go there but be aware of the sometimes irrational thinking that can come in this stage. When you pay attention to your thoughts and recognize when they’re defensive, it’s easier to step back and see if there’s any truth to the criticism.

2) Let it out

How lovely it would be to “just move on” but we all know that doesn’t usually happen. We can try to change the subject or move onto other work but when we’re upset, it’s hard not to think about the situation. Instead, react in private (DO NOT react or respond when you’re still riled up. It’s always best in business to reply with a calm mind). Write your thoughts down on paper or in a blank word document so you feel like you can get them off your chest. Once you’ve completed the back and forth in your mind, do your best to step away and clear your head. Sometimes the next step can help:

3) Focus on your fans

A good practice to get into is starting a journal or a folder on your computer full of feedback, messages and comments from happy customers. It’s normal to focus on the negatives instead of all the positives but the more you get in the practice of acknowledging all the greatness you’ve created, the easier it will be to let situations like this roll off your back.

4) Ask yourself; is this true?

This question can work both ways. If your mind is running wild from a lost fan and you’re fighting your own self-deprecating thoughts; stop and ask yourself if they’re true. Our own mind likes to play tricks on us so don’t fall for believing everything it says.

If you’re dealing with an email from someone, ask again; is this true? If they’re complaining that they had to constantly follow up with you and their order was the wrong color, facts that are indeed true, you know you have some making up to do. If they’re telling you your website colors are all wrong, your products are no good and you should change your business model, you can quickly determine that their statements are not true, they’re a personal opinion.

You can work with facts and come to a resolution. Opinions are personal and have to be handled with a little more thought. If you have the same feedback from several people, you may decide to make some changes. But if one in a hundred doesn’t like your branding colors, thank them for their opinion and put it to the back of your mind. Try to recognize the people who are genuinely trying to help you and your business by giving their opinions and the ones who are looking to stir the pot.

5) Try to humanize them

Yes, they are indeed humans, but the difficult part about the Internet is that we can forget that there are actual people with real emotions on the other side of the computers. If someone skipped that step and has sent you a not-so-heartwarming message, be the bigger person and imagine they’re your brother, sister, mother or daughter having a bad day and misdirecting their anger. Respond with kindness and you may just turn a hater into a praiser ;)

6) Find humor

Life is so much easier when we don’t take it too seriously. Another point lost on the criticizer but one that can be useful to you. It’s not usually easy and can take some time but if you can genuinely laugh at the situation, it makes it so much easier to move forward. Whether it’s laughing at yourself over a silly mistake you made or laughing about the ridiculous comment someone has made about you, it’s a lot better than beating yourself up or filling yourself with anger, doubt or anxiety.

7) React as an employee

Our businesses are our babies, which is why we take criticism so personally. But step away from being the business owner for a moment and react as an employee. If you were working for a large company that received a complaint, you wouldn’t get defensive; you would respond in a professional manner and take the steps needed to correct the situation or thank them for their feedback and move on.

8) Don’t let them win

If you’ve determined that the feedback is constructive and you can grow from it, then let them win…everyone wins when you can make positive changes. But if you’ve concluded it’s just someone trying to rain on your parade, don’t take the criticism to heart. If you allow yourself to be consumed by their baseless comments, they win and you're letting a complete stranger have control over how you feel. If you’re having trouble turning your thoughts around, picture them sitting at their computer, laughing over how upset they got you. Do you want to give them that satisfaction? Hopefully not! So do whatever you can to stop thinking about their comments, put a smile on your face, focus on the positive and move forward as though they have no affect on you.

9) Don’t waste your energy

Although some have a valid reason, there are some situations you’ll never understand why a person is criticizing you. They may be having a bad day, you may be doing something they wish they were, they may be someone you threw sand at when you were 5…you never know! If someone’s not willing to give you their proper name or way to reply, it’s really not worth spending your time trying to figure out who they are or why they’re criticizing.

10) You’re not right for everyone

You’ve heard it before; you’re never going to please everyone. Consider whether you really want someone following you or receiving your newsletters if they’re never going to read the content or be interested in what you have to say. In the online world there is so much emphasis put on how many likes and followers we have that we lose sight of the bigger picture; quality over quantity. If someone was never really interested in you or your business, are you really losing anything aside from a number?

Focus on what you do great and the right people will be attracted to you. You may lose some along the way but you won’t lose who you are or what your company stands for.

What are your tips for dealing with criticism? Share in the comment section below!

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