Oh sure, you think you nailed that site architecture and that home page reads like pure poetry, right? After all, you wrote it. But that’s the problem. You wrote it. You designed the graphics. You created the keyword list based on those finely-honed intuitive instincts so it must be perfect. It’s your baby.
Fact: you aren’t always right. Fact: some of your ideas just aren’t practical. Fact: a second, third and even a fourth opinion improves even the best-thought-out plan — if you’re willing to listen and learn.
1. Just because you fall short doesn’t mean you failed.
Easy to say, but not necessarily easy to live with. No one likes criticism. No one likes to admit that there’s a better solution, but the fact is, there are always better solutions. Criticism is a tool. It provides different perspectives. It identifies steps that you missed during the first round.
Learn from others. Just because you get push-back from a new client doesn’t mean the client got it right and you got it wrong. It simply means the client has a different point of view — one from which you just might learn a thing or two.
2. Open mind, closed mouth.
This is going to come as a shock but you won’t get it right every time. Ok you’re good, but you aren’t perfect.
You also aren’t a mind reader. Be prepared to revise your thinking and to look at your professional and personal life from a different point of view. Keep an open mind when listening to criticism. And don’t defend your baby. There are a lot of ways to get it right. Acquiring knowledge from others is the best way to learn. It’s real-world, real-time learning, not something you picked up in a school classroom 10 years ago.
3. Become a stakeholder but don’t drive your stake through the heart.
You know, the only way to kill a vampire is to drive a wooden stake through the undead monster’s heart. And you may occasionally run in to a client or colleague that tries your patience to the point where driving a stake through the “idiot’s” heart sounds like a reasonable solution.
Okay, first, it’s not a solution. In fact, your negative reaction to criticism, regardless of the source, will only make a problem worse. It’s important to remember that things like site design, graphics and site text are 100% subjective and sometimes you won’t be 100% spot on.
Take a position. Become a stakeholder in any project or undertaking but don’t cling to your POV with your last breath. There are a million ways to get it right and listening to some constructive criticism from a client, a co-worker, family member or friend may actually move that undertaking in another direction. A better direction.
4. Consider the source.
Who’s criticizing? Does that person have authority? Is she better versed in the topic? Is he the one with the checkbook?
Clients want things done a certain way — even if you know they’re dead wrong in their approach. As a knowledgeable professional, you have an obligation to point out flaws in the client’s thinking. However, once you’ve pointed out the flaw and the client still wants it done his way, you’ve done your job. You provided the best consultation you could, you provided the road map to success, but if the guy with the checkbook wants black text against a black background — even after you’ve explained why that’s a problem — you’ve done your job.
5. Learn from anyone and everyone.
There will always be someone who disagrees with your point of view, your suggestions, your designs and your expertise. No problem.
Confident people learn from anyone simply by listening. You don’t have to accept the point of view. Your free will remains in tact. Your opinions remain unchanged.
The key is to have confidence in your abilities, professional and otherwise. With self-confidence, criticism isn’t a threat. It’s a useful tool.
Learn by listening. The more perspectives you see, the better equipped you become when similar circumstances come up next month or 10 years from now.
6. How’s your self-image doing?
Don’t take it personally.
Development is a process, a strategy, a goal or objective, but it’s not about you. Keep your self-image strong and you’ll keep you self-esteem in place.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is an asset that’s often more important than intellectual intelligence (IQ). Accept criticism and learn from it. The result is a collaboration that delivers the positive outcomes from which all stakeholders benefit.
7. Not all criticism is constructive.
We’ve all met people, or have dealt with clients, who are mean-spirited — men and women who actually enjoy tearing your concepts to shreds. So be it.
Consider the source of the criticism. Consider the value of the criticism. Consider the benefits derived from the criticism. Never stop learning, even from those who are totally clueless. There may be a pearl of wisdom in what these mean-spirited people have to say.
Find those pearls and use them. Learn from them — even if the intent of their criticism is to undermine your efforts. Keeping silent in the face of criticism isn’t easy but it is beneficial to you, the client, the project, the objective.
Accept what you can’t change. It’ll save a lot of sleepless nights, hassles and headaches — especially when you realize that the source of the criticism doesn’t have the experience and knowledge you have.
8. Learn to let go.
You have an idea or concept, a design or strategy that you know is perfect. Okay, maybe it is, but don’t marry yourself to any one way of doing things. Learn to let go. Learn to keep an open mind.
You’ll be a better person for your efforts. Even better, you’ll learn to be a quality service provider when you can let go of that perfect concept and follow a different path. There are lots of ways to achieve success.
9. Recognize your own limitations.
Each of us has different strengths. Each of us has different limitations (weaknesses). Take pride in your strengths and use them to your advantage and to the advantage of your clients, your family and friends.
Accept your limitations and learn from others to lessen the negative impact personal limitations have on your professional career or the growth of your client base.
10. A closed mind never welcomes criticism.
Too bad. If you close your mind to new ideas, differing opinions or points of view, you don’t grow. You don’t get better. You don’t learn.
Criticism is about managing your emotions. It’s also about learning how people think, determining their needs and meeting those needs. Always put the needs of others before your own needs. It makes you a better human being and a better business owner, whether you’re a one-man company working out of a spare room at home or the CEO of a multi-national conglomerate.
Welcome criticism. Even mean-spirited criticism. In the end, you’ll learn. You’ll become a better human being and a better service provider. Think of criticism as a lesson from which you can become better at whatever it is you do.
The development of emotional intelligence isn’t something that’s taught in school. It’s something we learn by living, working with a variety of personalities and adapting to the needs of others.
To grow your business or to grow as a human being, recognize criticism as a positive, not a negative, in your daily routine.
In the end, you come out ahead. In the end, your business prospers.
In the end, you win.