Here’s one thing they don’t tell you when you start a business: you will be criticized.
You’ll be criticized by well-meaning friends and family who don’t want to see you hurt or disappointed.
You’ll be criticized by competitors who want you to stay out of the game so they don’t feel threatened.
Worst of all, you’ll be criticized by random strangers who don’t know you, but think you should be playing by their rules, not yours.
It is tough some days, I won’t lie. And although I’ve developed a thicker skin over the years, it still hurts.
Of all things, I was called “sleazy” recently. After a few minutes of hurt and worry, I smiled.
Because I’ve received all sorts of criticism over the years, and have built up a kind of routine for dealing with it. And I know that, from past experience, criticism is a herald of good things to come.
Here’s the formula for dealing with critics:
Have compassion. Critics are afraid: afraid to hope, afraid to fail, afraid to get screwed over, afraid of success… and the list goes on forever. When people take shots at you, they are simply scared. Be graceful, be kind, be understanding. Then let them go, and move on.
Center yourself. When criticism throws you for a loop, get clear about why you do what you do. It’s all about making a positive impact. A positive impact on others, your family, your finances, your freedom. When you re-center yourself on your vision and what is most important to you, the force of criticism diminishes significantly.
Have a sense of humor. Because, let’s face it, the life of the entrepreneur is pretty hilarious. We’ll work 60 hours a week for a roller coaster income in order to be “free” from a 40-hour a week job with a steady paycheck. People who criticize are often hitting a nerve we’ve be unable to laugh at (yet). Take yourself too seriously, and criticism can destroy you.
Look for the opportunity. Ask yourself, “Is there any truth to this criticism? What can I learn from this? Is it simply to persevere with grace? Or is there something good that can come of this? A blog? A book title?” Don’t change everything in response to criticism… that’s the worst thing you can do. But the second worst thing is to refuse to be open to the opportunities it offers.
Know good things are on their way. When criticism comes, a growth spurt generally follows. The criticism is kind of like a test. It’s the energy of Entrepreneurship tapping you on the shoulder and whispering to you, “It’s rough out there, and people will push your buttons and pull you down when they get the chance. Do you have what it takes? Are you willing to take the abuse with the rewards?” In my career took about 5 years of ups and downs (and pity parties when someone threw rotten tomatoes) to recognize this pattern, but it has held true.
So when someone calls you pushy, or greedy, or too big for your britches. Or (god forbid) sleazy… just smile. Be kind and laugh. Recommit to your vision and look for the opportunity. And believe, down to your toes, that good things are coming your way.
Linda-Ann Stewart says
Excellent article, and excellent advice on how to handle the inevitable criticism you encounter.