Sooner or later, every business will have to deal with negative feedback from customers or partners. Whether justified or not, what matters the most is how an organization handles the negative feedback and how it uses the received criticism to correct any flaws and fuel future growth.
To accomplish that growth, however, companies need to respond to the feedback they receive the right way, so as to show a willingness and openness to change and to avoid alienating their audience. That's often easier said than done, as criticism typically triggers strong emotions and a defensive attitude. To help, these six entrepreneurs share their best tips on how to handle negative feedback graciously.
Cool down before you respond.
The No. 1 rule when dealing with negative feedback is to not take it personally, says United Capital Source Inc. CEO Jared Weitz: "Take time before responding so that instead of reacting to the feedback, you receive it."
When faced with negative feedback, it's better to just think about how you can use it to improve and to remember that the people who voiced their criticism in the first place did so because most likely they want to help you improve, Weitz adds. "This allows the conversation to be directed immediately to solving the issues, as opposed to building conflict."
Put yourself in their shoes.
"It is important to see yourself in the other person's shoes," Alphametic founder Matthew Capala adds, talking about how important it is to not have a knee-jerk, emotional reaction to negative feedback. "Try to see the issue, whether it is your actions or your mindset and/or biases, from the other person's point of view," he advises.
According to Capala, negative feedback is as important as positive feedback for both receiver and giver, and feedback loops are one of the elements of an effective team. "Remove your emotions from what the person is saying and be objective in receiving."
What's also important when dealing with criticism is to never cast the blame on someone else or make an excuse, even if it isn't something you and your organization are entirely responsible for, thinks Zach Binder, president and co-founder of Bell + Ivy.
"No matter what the complaint is, don't make an excuse. Instead, take responsibility and explain how you intend to right this wrong," Binder insists. "Trying to put the blame elsewhere will only make matters worse."
Evaluate yourself and your process.
"When receiving negative feedback, it's important to evaluate the root of the problem -- whether it's a personal issue (e.g. time management) or stems from an ineffective process," Honest Paws co-founder Chelsea Rivera says.
Getting to the root of the problem can not only help you address the issue brought to your attention more effectively, but it can also prevent it from recurring in the future. "Oftentimes, I've found that employees are highly motivated and want to perform well, but have a poorly constructed process. Determining the cause of the issue -- whether it is the person or the process -- is the first step," Rivera recommends.
Ask for further details.
Sometimes, getting to the root of the problem is not that easy if you don't have enough information to work with, The Big 4 Accounting Firms CEO Bryce Welker adds. "I've noticed that some people will simply shut down when I give them negative feedback. They'll nod and agree with what I'm saying, but I know it's just going in one ear and out the other," he explains.
To avoid this situation, Welker does his best to actively respond to any negative feedback his organization receives and to ask the critic for more details. This helps paint a clearer picture of the issue, allowing both the company and the person who provided the negative feedback to focus on more productive interactions in the future.
Treat all feedback as a gift.
"If someone gives you feedback, negative or otherwise (assuming the feedback is accurate), it can do nothing but help you. They're doing you a favor," Venkon.us founder Jaime Manteiga thinks. What truly matters is what you make of the negative feedback you receive.
"Don't focus on insensitive delivery or your personal opinion of your critic. Ask for advice on what you can do better," Manteiga says. Then don't forget to follow up and show how you corrected the reported issue, thus proving that you have the maturity to improve your faults. "Criticism is a gift -- take it and run," Manteiga concludes.