Dealing with Criticism: When Bad Things Happen to Good Business Owners

Running a business can be a thankless job. Customers having a bad day take out their frustrations on you, someone posts a nasty reply to one of your blog entries, or a dissatisfied customer shares their unhappiness about you with all their Facebook friends. Here are three tips to help you deal with negative feedback and criticism.

It’s an unfortunate fact of life (and business). Out of the blue you get a nasty email from someone. Sometimes it’s about an article you’ve written. Sometimes it’s accompanied by a refund request. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it’s tied to anything at all.

Or maybe you discover someone writing malicious things about you on a blog or a forum. Or maybe some other negative things suddenly start getting tweeted or posted to Facebook about you, your products or your business.

Stuff happens. As a business owner and entrepreneur, the more successful you become, the more you open yourself up to criticism, negative feedback or just plain being attacked.

As someone who is both a writer AND a business owner, I know all about what happens when you’re dealing with unwelcome criticism. (I write fiction so yes, I’ve dealt with my share of negative feedback.) But if this is something new for you, or even if it’s not new but you’re feeling like you’ve just been sucker-punched by something out of the blue, I thought I’d share a few insights to help you get through it.

1. Know you’re not alone. We’ve ALL been there. And I mean exactly that. It doesn’t matter how small or big your business is, stuff like this is going to happen. So know that no matter what just happened to you, there are a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners out there who will both sympathize and emphasize.

2. See it for what it is. All criticism is not created equally. Sometimes what someone is saying has absolutely nothing to do with you and everything to do with their own issues. Sometimes they have a legitimate complaint but the person is so unhappy with their own life they blow it completely out of portion because they just want to strike out at someone and you’re the one they picked.

And sometimes they have a legitimate beef AND they handled it fine, but you just didn’t want to hear it. An example of this is some of the criticism I’ve gotten from some of my stories. The people were thoughtful and absolutely right. And I hated them. (Until I got over myself and slunk back to the keyboard to make the edits.)

Now the third option doesn’t happen too often (unless you’re a fiction writer) but the first two do. You just have to see it for what it is. If there’s something buried in the anger and name-calling you can use to improve your products, services or business, by all means use it. But know the rest of it has absolutely nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

(And you’ll know when the criticism is right. Trust me. Your gut will tell you.)

3. Be kind to yourself. When these things happen, it can hurt. And that’s okay. Call a friend. Or better yet, your mother (if you can). Write about it in your journal. Take a walk. Don’t bury your feelings, let yourself feel bad and then let it go. Don’t tell yourself it doesn’t matter and let it fester inside you, deal with it. Get it out of you. And then let it go.

4. Let someone else deal with these things. Whenever possible, have someone else in your business be a filter for stuff like this. Let other people take care of refund requests or just read the nasty emails and they can decide if there’s a legitimate complaint buried in there or not. Protect yourself, there’s no need for you to see everything or deal with everything. Yes you’ll have to step in if something big happens, but let other people take care of the small stuff. The small stuff is what wears you down anyway. Save yourself for the big things and don’t worry about the rest.

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