How to handle criticism when you’re a business owner

- August 3, 2019 3 MIN READ

Next time you cop a few paragraphs or earfuls of criticism from a client (constructive or otherwise) remember this nugget of truth from soloist and positive psychologist, Catherine Bell.

“It’s the people out there doing things that receive the most criticism. Give yourself a pat on the back for continuing your journey and chalk up the experience to learning. You got this.”

As Catherine, the founder of Bell Training Group,  told Flying Solo it’s completely natural to experience discount when you’re criticised but if you can let go of your despair, there’s much to be gained for your business and your life.


Shift your mindset

The first step is to remember to take all feedback professionally – not personally.

Taking a deep breath can really help that, copywriter Rebecca recently told Flying Solo:

“I have had to master the ‘deep breath’ a LOT of times. When you offer a service with a lot of members, it’s natural that you’ll get criticised from time to time (or receive really mean, angry feedback or emails). It’s a knee-jerk reaction for many of us to reply in the same vein or defend yourself. And like anyone, I am a work in progress (I have bad days too!),” she says.

“I try to remember that everyone has shit going on, sometimes you’re the punching bag (and often for no reason related to you or your business), and it’s my job as a business owner to see what I can do to help ease frustration and to diffuse the situation. 9 times out of 10 I can bring things back to a civil level and help the person with their problem (and often they apologise too).”

Remember: You make the decisions

We might not be able to stop the complaints that come our way but that doesn’t mean we have to act or more crucially, react to all of them.

“Demonstrate that you are HEARING the feedback – but hold your ground when deciding what, if anything, needs to change as a result,” says psychologist Catherine Bell.

“Learn to evaluate any criticisms for the information they hold, and then make a deliberate decision about what needs to be actioned – and what can be filed in the “not right now” basket!”


Startup founders using criticism for good 

Startup legend and founder of BKindred, Penny Locaso finds criticism inspiring.

“I think people who handle criticism well are open to growing their ideas buy surrounding themselves with people who challenge to see a different view,” says Penny.

“I love spending time with unlike minds and people who challenge me to look at the world through a different lens. I’ve realised the more I share an idea the more it grows. Just because someone tries to reshape or build on your idea it doesn’t mean that it’s a bad idea.”


Use critical feedback to showcase your authenticity

Mums & Co Founder, Carrie Kwan says she deals well with criticism and actively  encourages it from her team and members.

“Mums & Co is a start-up, we’re a small team and things move fast to get new features and improvements to market, and we know we’re not always going to get things 100% right,” says Carrie.

“Recently we had to deal with a glitch with a member’s request. We had not been able to respond as quickly as we would have liked, and she was unhappy. Whilst I could have been defensive and taken things personally, I chose not to react to something outside of my control, and rather looked at ways to convert her into one of our raving fans.”


It’s all part of the journey

Making mistakes and changing the way you do something doesn’t have to be a negative for your business. Penny Locaso and Carrie Kwan have both shared examples of where  accepting it as part of the journey of your business, can propel your growth.

As Catherine Bell reminds us: 

“I believe if my clients love me all the time, I am not being adventurous enough, and it’s time to be bolder! Give yourself a pat on the back for continuing your journey and chalk up the experience to learning. You got this!


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