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Four ways to cope with criticism

No one likes getting criticism. But when it comes to our businesses, criticism is what will help us (most of the time) hone our products, services and customer experiences. Here’s how to handle it.

No one likes getting criticism. But when it comes to our businesses, criticism is what will help us (most of the time) hone our products, services and customer experiences. Here’s how to handle it.

How we react to criticism will decide whether we grow from what we hear, or become bitter and close up because of it. Some criticism is baseless: people might expect impossible things of you, or blame you for mistakes someone else in the chain has made, or disagree with you on things which -at the end of the day- are really just a matter of opinion.

But most of the time there’s a grain of truth behind criticism. Are customers complaining that your products take too long to arrive? Do people think your labels are ambiguous and unclear? Are people mad that your products lack features which you promised?

When you receive criticism it’s important to step back and have a hard think: if the criticism is true, how can you fix it?

Try to think clearly

When I receive criticism I often react emotionally. I become angry and defensive or sad and upset. It’s a knee-jerk reaction, and it doesn’t help. So I just thank whoever is criticizing me for their honesty, and then go think it out in the shower.

It’s important in emotional situations to give yourself a time out: step away from the situation and try to think analytically. We need to put ourselves in our customers shoes, and look at the facts.

If your customers are complaining that your products take too long to arrive, for instance, don’t blame the delivery guys. What can you do to streamline the product? Maybe you need to label your packages better. Maybe you need to make delivery times more visible on your website.

When you’re receiving criticism, try to be practical.

You can’t always win

Some people are just real grumpy, mean people. They like to complain. You can’t win them over. In fact, there are a lot of people you can’t win over.

There are people that will only ever compare your products to the products of your competitors, there are people who will criticize because they’re having a bad day, and there are people who will complain because they don’t want to admit they’re the ones who ordered the wrong thing by accident.

We learn the most about ourselves through our mistakes, and they provide the most scope for growth.

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That said, it’s literally your job to make your customers happy. If someone criticizes you, do everything in your power to make it right. But if nothing solves the problem, sometimes it’s worth focusing your energy on the people you can make happy.

Learn and grow

We learn pretty quickly in our personal lives when something isn’t working.

I used to over-fertilize my houseplants because I was convinced it was twice as good. It wasn’t. The plants went yellow and I learned a lesson. And now I don’t overfertilize my plants.

In the same way we need to learn from business mistakes. We need to constantly evolve and learn. It’s important to take on as much feedback as possible, identify trends, and fix and improve them.

The old adage ‘don’t fix it if it isn’t broke' is largely useless. If that were the case we wouldn’t have half the technology and services we have today, and we’d still be washing our clothes in the river.

We can always improve the experiences of our customers. Criticism is an opportunity to grow.

Accept that you’re human

Criticism is inevitable. It will happen. No matter how much time and love and energy you put into your business, someone will find a flaw.

This is okay.

We learn the most about ourselves through our mistakes, and they provide the most scope for growth. If you’re being criticized be kind to yourself and take the steps you’ll need to fix the problem. Let it fuel you into building a better, more competitive business.

-Lena Klein

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