Criticism sucks, but it can be good for you!

photo credit: Dunny

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of criticism, then you know how bad it can make you feel. Even worse, criticism can make you start doubting your ideas and self worth. Yet before you head off to sick your Pit Bull on your critic, you may be able to use this criticism to your benefit!

Can’t see the forest for the trees!

It’s normal to be so focused on building your business that you completely miss something important or obvious. This is especially true if you’re working alone and dedicating all your spare time to starting your business.

So why is criticism a good thing?

Criticism can actually provide you with a fresh view on the things you’re working on. Even better, being able to address criticism can give you an indication of how well you understand the business you’re working on. First, you have to be able to differentiate good criticism from bad criticism.

Sorting the garbage from the gold…

There are various forms of criticism. The worst kind, and the kind we’re accustomed to, is the criticism that is given as a personal insult. For some reason or another, there are individuals out there who have nothing good to say. You’ll know these people immediately when you’re standing in line at the grocery store and all they do is b*tch and complain about every little thing. Most often, these individuals try to pull down everyone around them to compensate for their own issues and low self-esteem. This criticism is garbage; just let it go, don’t take it personal and move on with your life. You have better things to do than to get dragged down by someone’s negativity.

The good form of criticism is called constructive criticism, it’s criticism that offers valid feedback both negative and positive. The difficult part is stripping away the natural desire to become defensive and upset. If someone hasn’t gone out of their way to insult you or your Momma for their own benefit, then chances are you’re receiving constructive criticism. Just take a deep breath, step back for a moment, and think about the criticism that has been given to you. If at any point you find yourself thinking “Hey, this person actually brings up a good point” then you’re golden! At this point, say thank you then punch them in the gut! Okay, maybe just saying “thank you” will suffice.

How to ask for criticism…

The wrong way to ask: “What do you think?”
Asking “what do you think” is easy but too general. People that are close to you or not used to giving constructive criticism will most likely give you praise and positive feedback. That’s great, but it doesn’t help you improve or find holes in your ideas.

The right way to ask: “What can be better?” or “What can I improve?”
Asking “what can be better or improved” is more direct and will likely will result in constructive criticism. This way, you are narrowing down your responses to something that can be changed.

Who to elicit criticism from…

Okay, here’s the part where you actually venture out to get some criticism. Now, you just don’t want to go out and pick anyone, there’s actually a science to it.

First and foremost, find someone who is close to the subject you’re seeking criticism for. If you’re working on a website, find a web designer or programmer. If you’re working on a logo, find a graphic designer or someone who knows a thing or two about branding. If you’re designing a t-shirt that features a Star Wars character, find a Star Wars fanatic. Also, it helps if these individuals are friends or acquaintances (and stay away from the aforementioned “haters”).

Second, try to find individuals that are particular about things. I have a friend who has the cleanest car in the world! He once spent 16 hours detailing his car and that’s a normal thing for him. I’ve also seen him bust out a level at a friend’s home and align the pictures on the walls! Usually these individuals are engineers or architects, but as long as they’re particular then that’s all that matters. FYI, if they tie their shoes 18 times before leaving the house, you might want to pass on asking them for constructive criticism. The idea is that you find someone that is more detail oriented than you are, and finds things that others may not.

And finally, find some individuals that are far away from the subject. Now, if you’re creating an algorithm that can decipher Aboriginal language, then chances are you don’t want to ask a friend for constructive criticism when they have no idea what an algorithm or Aborigine is. Instead, ask for constructive criticism on an online checkout system, or the usability and accessibility of your website. Or better yet, just ask for constructive criticism on your idea in general.

Things to keep in mind!

Your business ultimately belongs to you, and sometimes it’s not going to be possible to implement a change for all the responses you receive. Everyone has different ideas and opinions about the way things should be, and some ideas may help while others may not. In the end, you have to stick to the decisions that you feel are truly the best for your business – and that’s all anyone can ask. So remember, criticism can be a good thing, be sure to use it wisely!

The Closet Entrepreneur

Post Scriptum: Don’t forget to thank all the individuals for providing you with constructive criticism!

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  1. AB

    Fantastic post. Thanks!

  2. somebody wrote that my shipping time is slow so, i changed courier

  3. Its the truth…though critism sucks, it helps the most to know about our weeknesses, negatives and short comings.I think critics will tell things to you, what your good friends, close ones would never tell you about yourself.

  4. TOMAS

    @AB – You’re welcome, glad you enjoyed the post.

    @MAMEECLOSET – Hope the changes result in some more sales!

    @Stevens Johnsons Syndrome – I completely agree, that is as long as the criticism is well thought out and useful without hurting anyone’s feelings. 🙂

  5. Bob T.

    I think the word criticism “sucks”! Replace it with feedback and the whole idea of receiving opinions, ideas, and general comments to help you grow takes on a much more positive tone.

    Criticism is just plain negative. Feedback incorporates positive, supportive commentary, and at the same time leaves plenty of room for improvement-centered remarks.

    Feedback. It ain’t just what happens when your speakers and microphone have a conflict. It’s what makes communications between two or more people effective!

  6. @Bob T. – The word criticism definitely sucks and I like your idea about using feedback—btw, thanks for the feedback and comment, it’s greatly appreciated!


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