Whatever the nature of your work, if it's performed in public you will not be able to escape criticism. Some of it will be unfair and harsh, and often just the threat of pointed, public criticism is enough to keep many entrepreneurs from taking strategic risks. After all, it's much easier to play for the broad middle than to open yourself up to public humiliation.
Author Jay Baer believes that criticism doesn't have to be painful. In fact, he argues that it can be beneficial, if treated the right way. In my recent podcast interview about his new book Hug Your Haters, he offered some ways to think about criticism differently and to even use it to your advantage. "If you're trying hard, you're going to get criticism," Baer says. "Anything that gets no criticism probably doesn't take enough chances." He offers a few tactics for dealing with the critics who cross our path.
Re-frame criticism as a favor
Whether you agree with it or not, criticism is "free market research" that can be valuable in helping you improve what you do. Baer argues that rather than treating criticism as a hostile act, we should treat it as a favor. He believes that "negative feedback is probably the best possible thing for your work. Remember that people who complain are using their time to tell you how to get better. You might not like the way they phrase it or the score they gave you, but it is a gift and it should be acknowledged as such."
Ask "What Is The Kernel Of Truth, or Actionable Idea?"
It's tempting to completely brush off criticism, but doing so might cause you to overlook valuable insights. Whether or not the criticism is completely on the mark, there is probably something at the core that could be actionable. Strive to discover that actionable piece of truth and apply it in order to make your work better.
Remember that critics have motives too, and they're not always hostile
You might be tempted to assume that all critics act out of hostility, but that's always not the case. There can be any number of reasons that someone didn't connect with your work or idea, especially when the criticism is done in public. "On-stage haters want an audience, and they may say things in a review or on social media that can be funny, or inflammatory, or filled with rhetoric because they are trying to entertain themselves or their friends. What they want is a group empathy cloud to come up around their complaint," Baer argues. As such, always filter criticism through the motives of the critic. It's possible that they never even intended for you to see their comments.
Engage no more than twice, then move on
You may want to simply ignore the criticism, but Baer argues that this is the worst thing you can do, especially if it's been delivered in a public forum. Don't be afraid to engage your critic, and to respond to the issues raised. However, Baer says that you should be careful not to get pulled into a rabbit hole of interaction. Rather, he says to graciously respond to their concerns, engage with the critic no more than two times, then move on.
Don't allow the fear of criticism to prevent you from introducing your ideas into the marketplace. Once you learn to treat critics as allies and not enemies, you can - as Baer says - learn to hug your haters.