The moment you become a mother you open yourself up to criticism. It seems as soon as that sweet baby takes his first breath, someone is telling you what you’re doing wrong. The commentary continues over the years and eventually that sweet baby joins in the discussion. But somewhere along the journey we learn to deal with the critics and embrace our unique mothering style.
The same thing happens when we open a business or launch a ministry. Despite the fact that you are making a positive contribution to the world, people feel the need to tell you all the ways you are failing. They do it in writing – on your blog or social media or via email. They do it in person – often in front of customers and staff. And they do it behind your back, which is sometimes the most hurtful of all, especially when the critic is a friend or family member.
So how to you deal with the criticism that comes with being a leader? I don’t claim to have it all figured out, but here are a few steps I take to prevent these remarks from stealing my joy and derailing my mission.
- Breathe. The first thing I want to do when someone attacks me with critical comments is to fight back. I want to craft an email that’s equal parts hateful and professional. But what I really need to do is step back and take a breath. Sometimes I let myself write the nasty email just to get my feelings out on paper. Then, I walk away for a few hours to cool off and start over again.
- Look for the truth. Even the most vile criticism can contain a hint of truth. If I’m truly honest – and I’m really wanting to grow – then I study the remarks and try to find the nugget of reality. I search for one tiny thing that I could own and change. If it’s not there, fine. But if I do find something worth acknowledging, I try to focus on that and ignore the rest.
- Change perspective. If you want to understand the motive or the message, try looking at the situation from the perspective of your critic. I think we get so caught up in what we’re trying to do and we feel the need to defend or justify the way we do things, that we forget to really listen and understand why others feel the way they do. Especially when they choose to express themselves in a hurtful or unprofessional manner.
- Know when to walk away. On the internet, we call them trolls. But there are trolls in real life too. They make trouble wherever they go and never seem to be satisfied. The longer you are in business, the easier it will be for you to identify them. Trolls don’t need a response. In fact, that only gives them more energy for their senseless banter. Say a little prayer for them and let it go.
- Love one another. Above all else, remember to be kind. Be kind to your critic. Be kind to yourself. It’s difficult to do this when you feel personally attacked. But try to remember the mission of your business or ministry and focus on that instead of wasting time or energy in confrontation.
I’m curious, what have you learned about dealing with criticism? Even the most baseless criticism can be a learning experience. In fact, criticism can be a gift if you know how to unwrap it.