Here’s the part no one talks about, when you’re creating content strategies for your business. You reveal a few personal details and make yourself vulnerable. You pour your heart into your content, because you know that in order to make a personal connection, people need to feel they know you. You work hard getting it as great as you possibly can.
And someone comes along who hates it, and you feel like you’ve been pissed on.
Now you may be one of those highly admirable people who takes nothing personally. If so, go check out something practical like Chris Garrett’s post today, this one will bore you to death.
But if you’re a thin-skinned sensitive soul like I am, you will feel like killing yourself. Jumping off a bridge seems like a pleasant proposition next to this. We quirky souls (I prefer quirky to neurotic, don’t you?) secretly spend a little too much time mentally listing all the ways we aren’t good enough, don’t know enough, and are entirely unworthy of any success, love, fame or money. An unappreciative remark (or a downright criticism) hits us like a bucket of ice water to the face.
“Aha!” we think. “I knew I sucked. Now I have validation. Add to my to-do list, find bridge.”
Since the world is a better place if you do not, in fact, kill yourself, here are a few strategies for when you’re finding it just too awful to go on.
1. Keep a testimonial file
Ideally you’ll do this before some brute rains on your parade. Create a file of great things people have said about you. Keep it where you can always find it. (The Web is nice for this–I’m never far away from my Backpack.) Unless you are Osama Bin Laden, your fans are going to massively outnumber your critics. Keep a lot of evidence from your fans, and make a point of referring to it frequently.
This is not vanity, this is a simple reality check. Most of us weigh criticism far more heavily than we do kudos, an unhelpful and unhealthy habit. We need to make a point of remembering to focus on the good stuff.
2. Resist the temptation to kick yourself for getting upset
You may have an internal monologue that goes something along the lines of, “Why am I such an idiot to take everything personally? I’ll never be able to succeed if I don’t get a thicker skin. God, if only I didn’t suck I’d be making as much money as Brian/Darren/ at the very least Remarkablogger. Stupid, stupid, stupid idiot to take it personally. Stop taking it personally. God damn it, stop. Ugh. Moron.”
Let me be gentle. This is not helping you, sweetie. You’ve just taken a right cross to the jaw–please try to refrain from giving yourself a left hook to follow it up.
When I catch myself doing this, I find it extremely helpful to wallow in my misery. Go ahead and feel bad about getting criticized. In fact, go ahead and feel awful. It’s quite helpful to zero in on physical reactions–my scalp always gets hot when I feel under attack, and my gut gets cold and knotted up. Pay attention to all that. Let yourself feel absolutely dreadful. The more completely you can give in to it, the quicker it passes.
3. Control your outward reaction
Since I am good with words, at one point in my life I responded to criticism with the verbal equivalent of neutron bombs. I can be pretty darned mean when I set my mind to it.
Not smart. Or kind.
Liz Strauss had a nice point on this at SOBCon. If you get slammed, say thank you. As unappealing as this may seem (and believe me, I’ve tried to find a workaround, but so far, no luck), criticism can sometimes be very useful. When you’ve had a chance to process everything, you can go back and decide whether or not there’s something to learn. In the meantime, you’ll look cool, calm and collected.
Which, in my evolved way, I like to think of as nice revenge on the rat bastard.
If you’re a true head case like I am, it’s smart to work up your response in advance. Feel free to steal this one:
“Thanks so much for that, [jerkface]. I’m going to give that some more thought.”
Expert communicator tip: This works better if you use their name rather than [jerkface].
4. Don’t over-correct
You’ve put a lot of time and thought into your content. If one person in a hundred hates it, the odds are not in their favor.
So yes, you may learn something valuable. But don’t change your direction until you’ve given yourself enough time to really process it. If you’re still angry and hurt, you’re not there yet. Once you can think about the comment and not get mad, you’re ready to learn.
If you’re still boiling, go back to step 2. Vent, vent, vent. Wallow in your rage and misery and be an absolute drama queen until it doesn’t really bug you any more.
You may be strongly (and subconsciously) tempted to do anything at all to avoid ever getting criticized again. Resist this with everything you’ve got. Nothing is more boring than inoffensive content.
5. Congratulations! You’re succeeding
This is the really annoying one.
When you’re getting criticized, it means you’re moving toward success. Your stuff is getting in front of more eyes, which means your odds of finding a critic go up. And you look strong and confident enough that the people who dislike strong, confident people will take a potshot at you.
Also, your thin skin can actually be a tremendous asset. Great content and relationship marketing depend on a high level of empathy. Being a delicate flower usually means you’re a blackbelt at empathy. If you can, think of your writhing agony as a price you pay for gifts that come in very handy at other times.
I know all of this is easier said than done. Believe me, I have 42 years of experience in how much harder it is to do than to say. But these do help me a lot, and I hope some of them may help you too. Most of you are far less mentally ill than I am, so you may not need all of them.
So let us know in the comments: What’s your best technique is for handling criticism?
(p.s. If you like this post, I will be honored if you’d Digg, Stumble or link!)
Flickr Creative Commons image by ganessas