When someone criticizes you, how to you react? Do you tell them to, “Take a hike, jerkface,” or do you crawl off to a corner to sob? Neither of those reactions is particularly useful.
Getting defensive when someone criticizes you is a normal reaction, but if you are willing to accept constructive criticism you can improve. The criticism may be of your business, your products or you personally—if you can get past your initial reaction, you may find it helpful.
I have presented seminars for years, including about a year for a major public seminar company. Every day I faced an audience of 50 to 400 people, many of whom were sent by their bosses and did not want to be there. At the end of the day, they got to say whatever they wanted, anonymously, on the evaluation form.
Fortunately for my ego, most of the evaluations were positive. People talked about how I kept their interest and how much they learned. But sometimes they said I talked too fast (Oops. Yes, I do that.) and sometimes they lobbed gratuitous insults rather than offering constructive criticism. One person didn’t like my hair, another criticized the color of my jacket, and someone else said I was too short.
My favorite comment was from someone who said, “She tries to be funny and it makes her even more annoying.” “Even more annoying”? So this person did not like me from the git-go, and when I opened my mouth, things went downhill from there. What can you do when you read something like that but laugh?
The secret to handling criticism is to know when to pay attention to it and when to shrug it off. The people who said I talked too fast—well, they had a point. I do sometimes talk too fast. Seeing comments like that made me more aware of it, and reminded me to slow down and breathe once in a while in future presentations. But to the people who said that my jacket was too bright or I was too short, geez, get a life.
When you are in the public arena, you will be criticized, sometimes fairly, sometimes not. You need to develop a thick skin so that the ridiculous insults do not draw blood, but recognize when someone offers criticism that can make you, your business or your products better. Here are some ways to do that. [Read more…]