Negative Feedback is a Bitch. Here’s How to Handle It…

I managed to hold the tears back until I hung up the phone. It took all the effort I had to stay composed, but right when the line disconnected, the tears surged over my lower eyelids and began running like two unstoppable streams down my face.

This is ridiculous, I thought, trying to toughen up. It’s not a big deal.

I had just gotten off the phone with one of my health coaching clients. This was five years ago now. She was frustrated with my coaching program and wanted her money back. She didn’t see the value in what I was offering and wasn’t being shy about sharing her not-so-nice feelings.

I was mad at myself for being so emotional, but I couldn’t help it in the heat of the moment. I was crushed. Not only did this woman not like the business I had poured my heart and soul into, but she wanted a full refund, which was almost impossible to give her when I was barely making enough to cover my basic bills that year.

I was just lucky that I had a private office and no one else was able to witness this sad display of a small straw breaking the camel’s back.

If you’re anything like me, your business is your baby. It’s a part of you. It’s everything you think about night and day. You want to protect it, watch it grow, and see it go on to do great things.

That’s why negative feedback or criticism for your business hurts. It can be outright painful. And it can be hard not to take it personally and want to curl up in a ball of self-pity waiting for the storm to pass.

But what I’ve learned in the years since my mini emotional breakdown is that receiving negative feedback is a sign that your business is growing. It’s not so much painful as it is a growing pain.

Here’s the truth of the matter: You’ll never have haters when you’re not winning.

This means when you’re playing too small or your business isn’t reaching many people, it’s unlikely that you’ll receive any negative reviews, bad feedback, or direct insults.

For example, if you write a book and only sell it on your website to your loyal fans and family members, you’re probably going to get rave reviews. It’s going to feel like everyone loves your work and is positively impacted by your message.

On the other hand, if that same book starts selling nationally and all of a sudden it’s on the New York Times bestseller list, get ready to meet the haters. All kinds of opinions will start pouring in—the good, the bad and the ugly.

When you want to win with your business, share your ideas, and make a powerful impact in this world, you will eventually meet with the haters on your journey to the top. This just means you’re heading the right direction.

Here’s a quote I found recently on a TV review message board:

“Shame on her…she is a racialist if not an out[right] racist and is obviously more interested in the color of her skin than I am. I don’t need that in my life.”

The review was talking about Oprah.

Personally, I didn’t think anyone could hate Oprah, but since she’s reaching a huge number of people across the world, it makes sense that the haters would find her.

There will always be a percentage of the population who won’t like what you do. That’s just the way it is. When you cross the threshold between everyone loving your work and starting to collect negative feedback, you can bet that you’re now making a broader impact with your business (which is what you want). It means that you’re starting to “win” –that you’re reaching a larger percentage of the population with your work.

Shedding your cozy comfort zone and putting yourself out there for everyone to see (and pick on) isn’t always a walk in the park, but it’s just part of the growing pains of building a business.

But you can definitely make the process less painful by keeping these 3 things in mind…

#1: It’s okay to polarize people

Even if you’re the type of person who wants everyone to like you, your business shouldn’t inherently be designed to appeal to everyone.

When you try to get everyone to like your business, no one will notice it because it just blends in with the hundreds of thousands of other businesses out there. It becomes a quiet wallflower in a noisy room where everyone is shouting.

Know that it’s okay (and effective) to alienate people who aren’t your ideal customer. Some people will like your business and some will dislike it. The more clear-cut that distinction becomes, the more loyal fans you will develop and the more naysayers will pop out of the woodworks. But don’t worry about the latter…as long as you’re catering to your loyal fans, your business will skyrocket.

#2: Separate the insults from the feedback

Make sure that you’re distinguishing insults from negative feedback. Feedback creates improvement and insults create wounds.

Filter through the negative feedback you receive and use it to enhance your business and hone in on your customer’s needs. Don’t take it personally or react emotionally (like I did). Negative feedback can be the best thing that ever happened to your business if you use it to progress in a positive direction and figure out where the holes in your business lie.

As for the insults, just let them slide. Don’t fight against the haters and don’t let their criticism stall your business’s upward trajectory.

#3: Get the people who like you to LOVE you

Never try to turn the people who hate your business into people who like your business. Instead, work on getting the people who like your business to LOVE your business.

Focus all your energy on the people who already like what you do. How can you provide more value to those people? How can you deliver more of exactly what they want? How can you turn them from regular customers into loyal, die-hard fans?

Then just ignore everything else, including the haters and the naysayers.

Again, keep in mind that the haters only show up when you’re winning. So keep winning, pressing forward and playing the game like you’ve got nothing to lose.

Image Credit: Image provided by Karl Horton License:
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David Hooper - 5 years ago

Ok, but let’s admit that some of these bad, snarky reviews can be quite funny. For example, I just saw one about a new age podcast the reviewer thought was wimpy and he described it as “listening to Oprah, but with a deeper voice.”

In these cases, I think the bad reviews/feedback can actually make people curious to try what you’ve got.

Anyway… I wrote some more thoughts on this subject, if you’re interested…

Keep up the good work!

    Laurel Staples - 5 years ago

    Thanks for your thoughts David…and GREAT article!!

Tracey - 5 years ago

Laurel I love this blog post. It is a great take away on how to handle negative feedback. I will keep it close once I start winning for a reminder to take it with a grain of salt.
Looking forward to reading your book!

    Laurel Staples - 5 years ago

    Thanks Tracey!! Glad you enjoyed the article. I keep waiting for someone to write me a negative comment about my article on negative feedback, just for the fun of it. 🙂 I guess I need to start “winning” more to get that. Haha.

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