Get Over Your Fear of Critics, and Learn To Appreciate Them

For some, social media is a bit scary because it empowers the public to voice their thoughts. While hopefully in the vast majority of circumstances this means engaging in more meaningful conversations, learning about new supports, and amplifying your message through valuable networks, it also means that critics can make their rants public. This is scary, and threatening. Partially because of the potential content of those rants, and largely because it represents a loss of control.

I often remind those concerned that control is largely an illusion — those rants and conversations happen in the parking lot, the dinner table, via email and on Facebook. The companies that have done a great job of turning around their brands (Comcast, Dell) have done so not be trying to shut down the conversation or ignoring it, but by listening, acknowledging, and learning from it. (For stories about what they’ve done, read Twitterville.)

Chris Brogan, a widely known and well respects new media marketing specialist, writes a very prolific (and insightful) blog and weekly e-newsletter. This week he talks about critics, and offers some advice :

If you are fortunate enough to have critics, you’re doing something right … I want to share with you how I deal with critics, and what you might learn from the gifts they give you.

Thank them. No matter what a critic says, say “Thanks for your thoughts,” or a variation. They have taken the time to offer their opinions, however invalid or unhelpful, with you. Say thanks. It’s the only good response to a criticism.
Don’t defend yourself. The person giving you the opinion probably doesn’t care what you have to say about it. They just wanted to share their take. You can reply and reflect back what they’ve said, but try not to defend. It only comes off as making you look defensive and it just goes nowhere fast.
Decide for yourself, in private, if you agree. You don’t have to take every critic’s opinion, but listen to whether there’s any grain of truth in what they say. I learn when my critics are my friends, but I learn LOTS when they are people who don’t much like me. Sometimes, I’m able to adapt their mean words into something of great value to myself.
Don’t just throw it out, is my point. Criticism can be helpful, even non-constructive criticism, if you are willing to hear a bit of it and throw away the junk. Thing is, don’t necessarily run around seeking it, either. It can build up like toxin in our veins, and if we’re only hearing a stream of icky things, that doesn’t help us at all.

… It took me a long while to believe in myself enough to not believe in critics. There’s a great bit from an interview (and I forget who the subject was), where she said something about really loving her positive reviews, but then her agent said, if you believe all the positive reviews, you have to believe all the negative critics. That’s stuck with me.

Personally, I’ve found most of the criticism we receive on the JewPoint0.org blog is really helpful — it teaches me where I can improve, adds value to the conversation, and often helps me identify knowledgeable folks who are invested in our mission.

How do you think about critics and criticism, whether it be on or offline? How do you use it as a productive feedback loop? How to you respond to critics? What have you learned?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *