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Criticism can be your friend


It takes a great deal of personal commitment to become an entrepreneur. The process of building a successful business, however, often invites large amounts of unsolicited advice. When this advice takes the shape of negative criticism, it can become difficult to continue building your business model. The trick is simply to separate useful feedback from opinionated and negative criticism.

During this process, it is wise to have a respected mentor with whom to discuss accumulating advice. A good mentor will help you differentiate between feedback and criticism and whether there is valuable information that can be gleaned.

An old Latin proverb says, “If one throws salt at thee, thou wilt receive no harm unless thou hast sore places.” In other words, if negative criticism feels as if it has some truth, examine it carefully to see if there is validity to the claim. Accepting criticism as useful feedback is ultimately beneficial: It requires us to leave our comfort zones and stretch ourselves.

If there is truth to the remarks you’ve received, then evaluate what can be done to improve your business. If there is no validity to the comment, let it go and don’t spend time asking why the comment was made. Frequently, “stinking thinking” only encourages more “stinking thinking.” 

Here are great suggestions on how to listen, evaluate and respond to negative feedback.

1.  Try appropriate action if warranted. You do not need to be the victim of false accusations or information. Try to come to a common ground of understanding. Consult an attorney as needed to see what your rights are.

2.  Be clear and concise. Prepare a plan of action to increase your confidence. Try to avoid unnecessary rambling or talking.

3.  Remain calm. Take some time to process though the situation before responding so that you do not lose your cool. Be professional no matter how difficult it becomes for you.

4.  Don’t take it personally. Easier said than done, right? Keep it factual and at a distance.

5.  Remember this saying: "To thine own self be true.”

6.  Keep an open mind. Explore the reason behind the comment, clarify any misunderstandings, and provide an opportunity to eradicate the situation if appropriate.

7.  Learn. Ask yourself, what is the gift that came out of this situation? What can you take from this that will make you a better person or have a better business?

Stay true to the mission of why you opened your business in the first place. If you have a mentor who helps assess if you are achieving your goals, then seek her counsel, which further helps eliminate any troubling feelings about dealing with criticism.

I often think of the publicity celebrities have to face. Many times it includes some serious negative criticism, and it is interesting to see how they respond to it. Many of these people have trained coaches that remind them to think before they respond and use tips similar to the ones I mentioned.  Remember that when you receive negative criticism, you don’t have to respond immediately. Usually if you can gather your thoughts before you react, the end result is better for everyone.

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Teri Karjala

Teri Karjala is owner of the Creative Counseling Center, LLC, as well as Talking With Teri, LLC. Teri’s passion for the business aspects of owning and maintaining a business has made her a sought out coach by others in the helping fields. She is a regular columnist for ColoradoBiz Magazine and speaks to therapists across the nation in building their thriving practice. Recently she has released her “How to Live Deliciously” Creative Journal Series to help inspire and empower adults, teens, and children. These are available in print at www.talkingwithteri.com.

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