3 ways most people deal with criticism in business (and how to respond instead)

We all face criticism in our businesses. It’s one of those inevitable things you hear when you put your ideas and services or products out there for public consumption. Sometimes it comes in the form of really constructive feedback (which is good to hear and helpful to apply) and sometimes it’s a bitter pill (and may or may not be deserved).

Also, I’ve observed as a general rule that the more successful one is in business, the more vocal their critics become.

So how can we handle criticism in business? How do we respond?

I think there are 3 ways that most people respond. I’ve drawn them out in this little graphic, below. In general, people completely agree with the criticism, they resist the criticism, or they ignore it.

I think these are the ways that we most frequently respond, and partly that’s because of our human nature. Depending on what your personality is like, you may be more likely to respond to criticism in one of these ways. If a client gives you feedback about a project you’re working on, you might completely agree. Or if a less-than-professional website visitor leaves “you suck” feedback on your blog, you might fight back with something nastier or you might ignore it.

Although this is how most of us respond to criticism in our businesses, I actually think there are 3 ways that we should respond to criticism:

On the continuum between ignore and resist, there is “professional disagreement”. This is where we engage the person in a professional debate that is respectful and, if necessary, private.

Not all criticism is bad and on the continuum between resisting and agreeing there is a point when we learn. It’s about the place when understanding and clarity takes over from ignorance.

Lastly, there is transition. This is when you may or may not acknowledge the criticism as a prompt but you do make a course adjustment as a result.

Next time someone gives you negative feedback — whether helpful, well-intended, insulting, or completely unreasonable — don’t react the way you normally would. Consider a moderate approach that will help you emerge as a thoughtful professional.

Published by Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and other books.

Leave a comment