Everybody deserves a swift, ‘kick in the pants’ from time-to-time – a wake-up call, so to speak; a time where you are given constructive criticism in some form that changes your entire dynamic. Maybe it’s in the form of having a moment of clarity where you recognize that you have been leading your employees wrong, or it’s from someone’s blunt-yet-true advice regarding your brand’s competitors. The keyword here is, ‘constructive criticism,’ though, and while it can come accidentally from watching how another brand operates or from a trusted peer that gives you some sound advice, there are other times when criticism is thrown at you that is meant to be venomous.
We’ve all been there. Someone gives us a backhanded compliment in public that on the surface sounds nice, but by reading their body language, tone, and underlying message, it becomes quite clear that you were given a mean-spirited comment disguised as a compliment. Make no mistake about it: there are people out there that want to see you fail by default. Whether the reasoning stems from jealousy, your affiliation with someone they dislike, they see you as competition, whatever the case may be, some people want to see you fail – and they will let you know it.
To this end, I say, “forget about them.” Don’t let the critics get you down (this isn’t to be confused by what customers say about you – take everything they say, no matter how mean-spirited their comments may be – seriously). Avoid trying to rationalize why they would say something so awful, brush it off, and watch as your skin gets a little thicker.
The best anecdote I can give for this is from a close friend who happens to be a writer. He once told me that early on in his college years, he wanted to become a better writer quickly. He took a few introductory writing classes, progressed to more advanced classes, and ended his college career taking workshop writing classes where he was bombarded with criticism every class. What he told me was quite interesting. Sure, he learned how to become a better writer objectively, but the most valuable thing he learned was how to have a thick skin and endure criticism. To him, the most valuable thing he learned at college was learning the difference between constructive and venomous criticism, and gaining the ability to brush off the venomous criticism to the wayside.
Certainly, it wasn’t easy for him in the beginning – and he would be the first to tell you. It hurt in the beginning, but by learning how to deal, cope, and endure with the criticism, it made him a better writer, professional, and likely even a better person. It’s a skill all entrepreneurs need to learn, and I urge you to think critically about the criticism you receive going forward. When someone insults you or says something negative regarding your brand, try to find the kernels of truth in what they are saying. Maybe there is a little truth in the cracks that you can use to improve your brand or yourself, and if there isn’t? Do what my friend did:
Throw the criticism to the wayside, and move on. Never let the critics get you down! We’re better than that.