handling criticism

I learned a valuable lesson today, about dealing with criticism.

It started when one of my blog posts from last week attracted some unexpected feedback. It wasn’t exactly what you would call criticism – more of a misunderstanding. But nevertheless, it sent me spiralling into a nose dive. Fortunately I didn’t quite crash and burn, but I felt pretty fed up for a while.

This is not the first time I’ve reacted in this way – turning the proverbial mole hill into a mountain.

Thanks to the support and advice of my friends, though, I’ve been able to re-frame that experience, so that I can behave differently next time. So I thought I would share with you what I learned, in case you find yourself in a similar situation.

If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime

It’s entirely up to me, whether or not I allow people to comment on my blog posts. One friend said that she prefers to turn comments off, rather than run the risk of her blog posts attracting any negative feedback.

If you allow people to comment, there’s always the possibility that someone will misunderstand what you wrote and take umbridge with it, or that someone will quite simply disagree with you. It’s a free country. If you give people the right to comment, you can’t really turn round and complain if what they say isn’t what you want to hear.

It’s not me, it’s you

Another friend said that, if someone criticises you or leaves a comment that seems to be negating what you’ve written, it’s more than likely that it’s about their stuff, and not about you at all. So don’t take it personally.

If you’re investing in your greatness (i.e. shining your light) and expressing an opinion, it could press some people’s buttons – and even upset or anger them in some way – in which case, they might strongly disagree with you in their comments. Or they might simply say something that you feel is inappropriate. As I said in the previous point, though, if you choose to allow comments, then you have to accept the consequences.

It’s not you, it’s me

I also realised that I have a choice, as to how I react to someone’s feedback. Nobody can make me feel upset – only I can do that. So, even if someone were to leave a comment that was highly critical of me, personally – or used foul or inappropriate language – I can choose not to react.

I can choose to say: “that’s interesting”, and get on with my day.

This time, I allowed myself to feel upset. The next time, though, I can remember the lesson I learned today, and react differently. And I can do that in any situation where someone appears to be giving me a bad review – not just on my blog.

15 thoughts on “Dealing With Bad Reviews

  1. I got an unsubscribe today from someone who doesn’t like my acceptance of transgender people. Good riddance to a bigot, I say!

  2. Your conclusion reminded me of something Stephen Covey wrote about in ‘7 Habits’ – that between the external ‘stimulus’ and our response there is always at least one second where we can choose how we respond. Not always easy to remember when one of our buttons has been pushed, but useful nevertheless. I also like the way Steve Peters writes about this in ‘The Chimp Paradox’.
    I have read that a blogger “should” write in a way that divides opinion or at least generates debate, but I think I’d find it difficult if I got negative comments.
    Gina Musa recently posted..Scary or what?!My Profile

  3. For some reason your blog reminded me of something Mae West was supposed to have said: “I’d rather be looked over than overlooked!” Not sure if it quite fits. Alternatively, you can’t please everybody. If you do, then your message is too bland. I have to say, you’re certainly investing in your greatness! Keep going, Julia. You’re doing so well!
    Sue Plumtree recently posted..How to be happyMy Profile

  4. Julia Barnickle

    Good point, Jenny – sometimes the “bad review” comes in the form of an unsubscribe. Well done for taking a positive stand!

  5. Julia Barnickle

    You’ve just reminded me that we’ve had this conversation about “The Gap” before, Gina! 🙂
    I think that, for any message to make an impact, it almost inevitably generates debate, because we are questioning the status quo and suggesting there might be a different way to do things. The problem I have is that, usually, I try to see both or all sides of the story, because I don’t believe Life is “black and white” – and I don’t really hold with the notion that opinion has to be divided. It’s only an opinion, after all – and, given a different set of circumstances, that opinion could change. I suppose that’s the difference between an opinion and a belief…
    I suppose the thing is to not take any comments personally – that was the mistake I made this time, and will no doubt make again.

  6. Julia Barnickle

    Thanks Sue. That’s an important point – that we often try to please everybody, and end up pleasing (or connecting with) nobody. The only person you can really please is yourself – so if you believe in what you’re saying, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says. Perhaps, when a comment causes distress, it’s because we aren’t clear enough about our own beliefs, and the comment causes us to question ourselves. That was partly the reason for my reaction in this instance.
    I love the Mae West quote, by the way – and I think it’s certainly fitting for the topic of investing in our greatness!

  7. I am so glad you have written honestly about this as it is something many of us have to face up when we put ourselves out there on the internet. I have been really upset in the past when experiencing the same situation. I can handle the people I don’t know who disagree with me – that’s fine, but when it comes to misunderstandings with friends online, it can really affect me for a long time.
    Marie Ennis-O’Connor (@JBBC) recently posted..Mindful MondayMy Profile

  8. Julia Barnickle

    That’s so true, isn’t it, Marie. Somehow misunderstandings in writing have a much deeper impact than face-to-face misunderstandings, because the written word is more open to interpretation, without the benefit of being able to discuss, in the moment, what’s been said. I think the impact can be even greater on a blog such as yours, where the contributors and subscribers are sometimes under immense pressure and not always feeling very positive. Thank you so much for your comment – and keep blogging, because the world needs your insights. x

  9. […] our point of view. So how do you deal with criticism online? That’s the thoughtful subject of Julia’s blog post on Dealing With Bad […]

  10. Sounds like you handled the comment very reasonably. I’m glad you found support too. Wayyyy back during my first blogging attempt for an online magazine I received a very critical comment and it just embarrassed me to no end. Not long after I quit blogging for that organization. It’s a real shame that I allowed the comment to get to me in such a way. All that to say, I understand how words can have a deep impact. But good on you for stepping back from the emotional reaction. And if all else fails, there’s always ‘delete comment’ !


  11. Julia Barnickle

    Ah yes, Catherine – the unkindest cut of all…! 😉

    Thank you for sharing your reaction to a very critical comment in the past. Hindsight is, as they say, a wonderful thing, and I’m sure you handled the criticism as best you could at the time. Now, older and wiser, we all have a chance to reflect on the futility of getting upset about someone else’s opinion. Not that it will stop us from getting upset 100% of the time, of course!

  12. Julia I am so glad you wrote about this. I have gotten so upset from this type of situation. It’s especially difficult when I think so highly of someone and then I have worried so bad that I may have said the wrong thing. It’s really hard not to take things so personally. I was really afraid one time that I upset a friend and cried so hard thinking I was a total failure. Thankfully the friend eased my mind. We have to be able to express our ideas freely and we all have the right to see things differently. I think that we are lucky that thanks to the support of friends, we have to know in our hearts we must be free to express what’s on our minds and not be afraid of criticism. Of course it is so much easier said than done! Thanks for this great post!

  13. Julia Barnickle

    Thank you, Susan. I’m glad that your friend eased your mind. I suppose, if someone is a true friend, then no matter what has been said by either party, the damage can be repaired. There’s a quote which is often attributed to Dr Seuss, which I think is quite fitting: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

  14. Great post and I applaud your honesty. Dealing with criticism is such a difficult thing. As a fellow blogger, I know I can easily spiral into a bad mood after a comment (or lack of comments, ha ha!). The main thing is, you are putting your stuff out there and you are getting noticed for it. I think you sum it up brilliantly – “Nobody can make me feel upset – only I can do that”.

  15. Julia Barnickle

    Thanks Katherine – and I applaud yours! Thank you for introducing me to the 33% rule – yet another powerful tool to add to the kit for dealing with rejection. 🙂

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