Learn To Handle Criticism

Tips on how to deal with criticism in order to help your business

No matter how successful you are, you'll eventually face criticism, whether from customers, other entrepreneurs, family and friends, or even employees. How do you effectively handle criticism and keep yourself and your company moving forward? Here are five tips:

1. Listen openly. The criticism might not be true, but what's important is that the person perceived it as true. Instead of feeling insulted, find out how you can change the person's perception or address the facts if it is true.

2. Don't take it personally. It's easy to want to vindicate yourself when you feel unjustly criticized by, say, a customer. But no matter how off-base a customer's complaint might be, resist the temptation to lash back. Otherwise, you risk losing that client-and the potential referrals he or she brings to the relationship. Who knows? The person could be going through a tough divorce or dealing with a loved one's terminal illness. Cut people some slack.

3. Get a second opinion. Not everyone has your best interests at heart. Some people, for example, will deride you out of envy. When you sense this is the case, don't get defensive. If you have to, force a smile and say "Thank you for your feedback. I'll take some time to evaluate what you said and see if I should make any changes based on your suggestions." This will help you maintain your composure. Then consult someone you trust to see what part of the criticism, if any, is valid.

4. Ask yourself "What can I learn from this criticism?" For example, suppose a customer complains that the late-payment policy outlined in your contract is grossly unreasonable. If you take the posture of wanting to learn from this criticism, you may discover that other customers are turned off by the policy as well, revealing a problem that, if ignored, could hurt your sales in the long run.

5. Get used to the heat. If your goal is to avoid or suppress criticism, you'll consistently feel discouraged, angry, frustrated and ready to give up your entrepreneurial dream. Instead, make peace with the fact that as long as you're the Big Kahuna, you're going to be a prime target for criticism. When people point out that you're not perfect, take solace in the knowledge that you're in good company.