Picture this: you've finally written the book you've spent your whole career preparing for. Your book launch is in full swing, and you hop on to Amazon and see...a negative review. You don't have to imagine much further to understand the disappointment and frustration a bad review brings. If you put that much effort into something only to find that people don't like it, it's tempting to take people's negative reactions as commentaries on who you are, though that's generally not the case.
Bad reviews will eventually happen to everyone who offers a product or service, whether it's a book, a restaurant, or even business consulting. Every consumer has different goals, tastes, and ways of communicating, so it's unlikely you'll make everyone a raving fan. When handled correctly, negative reviews can be more constructive than hurtful. Keep these principles in mind.
It's Not Personal
Do you like everything you read, eat, buy, or experience? Of course not. It's critical to separate your self-worth from people's opinions of your work, because they're critiquing the work, not you. What you do is a reflection of who you are, but your negative reviews are probably from people who don't know you. Remember: it's about the work.
Critical Reviews Can Be Good Reviews
When someone leaves a negative review, allow some time between your first and second readings. When you've cooled off and are able to see with a clear head, read the review again and note the points that may have some merit versus those that are simply one person's preference or opinion. Consult friends, family, or trusted coworkers for feedback on those thoughts, and set a plan to remedy the most important problems in your future work. While there are times when a reviewer doesn't provide more insight than "Bad" or "Hated it," there are many more times when a critique can help you improve your work exponentially.
Engage, Don't Rage
In many cases, it's best not to respond to a negative review at all. (If a reader simply doesn't like your storyline, there's no point in arguing it.) That said, in the age of social media we're often expected to respond to a negative comment publicly. While self-defense is instinctive when you've been attacked, it's important to step back and take a deep breath before responding. If you come back with a defensive argument about why the reviewer is wrong, or worse, attack the reviewer personally, you've made it clear that your skin isn't thick enough to handle criticism with poise and perspective. That kind of personality does not appeal to potential readers, customers, or clients and is a detriment to your brand. If ever pressed for a response to a negative comment or review, "Thanks for your feedback!" or "I appreciate your perspective and want to think about it more," are all you need to say. An online war of words is unwinnable, and you'll gain more friends and followers by showing respect.
Negative reviews are no fun to deal with, but don't let them bring you down or turn you into someone you never wanted to be. Train yourself to see criticism as an opportunity to strengthen yourself and your work. Over time, even if the initial disappointment isn't easier, you'll develop better and faster ways to cope and move on.