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How To Handle Stinging Criticism

Usually when I publish an article or blog post, I get very positive feedback.  Everything from “you go girl” to “that was exactly what I needed to hear.”
However, once in awhile someone will react badly to something I’ve written and take the opportunity to let me know about it and usually not in such positive terms.  These are some actual emails I’ve received:

  • “It’s sad to see what you’ve become.” (from a former friend who shared the same religious upbringing as me)
  • “You are preoccupied with success and money.” (from a reader who accused me of using money-mongering quotes)
  • “Your marketing has gotten too SPAM-like for me.” (from a colleague who asked to be unsubscribed and yet has since re-subscribed)

I’ll be the first to admit that these criticisms sting.  Ironically, years ago I washesitating publishing a newsletter for this very reason. I was so afraid I would be criticized or that people wouldn’t approve of me.

So you know what I did?  I chose to focus on only the positive responses I received.  Yes, I am still open to criticism – if it’s constructive.  But if someone is just looking to vent or bash me, I have no problem hitting DELETE and then UNSUBSCRIBE.

The reason I feel so confident doing this (AND HERE IS THE REAL POINT OF THIS POST) is because for the exact article the people above criticized me for I received glowing accolades from others…

  • “I am so proud to see you owning your greatness.” (from a friend)
  • “You are spot on.” (from a former client who agreed with my philosophy around money)
  • “You are one of the most creative, inspiring entrepreneurs I have ever met.” (from a colleague)

When this happens, you really start to see that it has VERY LITTLE TO DO WITH YOU and much more to do with other people’s perceptions and opinions.  And how they perceive you, has everything to do with them.  It may sound trite to say ‘don’t take it personally’ but the truth is…it’s rarely about you.

One of my mentors, David Neagle, drilled home for me this truth: “If it triggers them – it’s about them.” 

So you could spend your whole life being careful not to offend someone.  And yet, you would still offend someone!

Where have you put off doing something because you’re afraid of criticism?  Where have you been criticized and it caused you to shrink back?  What is one thing you would do today if you knew you could gracefully handle any criticism that came with it?

Why not do that thing today?


“All you can do is keep your motives pure.  If you do offend, you’ve likely hit on something THEY need to look at – in which case you’ve done a good deed.”  ~ Joy Behar, host of Current TV’s Say Anything

I think the most profound and important realization is that most people are inhibited and sabotaged by the fear of criticism and inability to handle criticism, while high achievers are immune to it.

~ Maxwell Maltz, author of “Psycho-Cybernetics”

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You’re thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure – or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that’s where you’ll find success.”  ~ Thomas J. Watson