Why Criticism Is Your Best Friend

July 12, 2010

in Editor's Corner

pointing-finger

Criticism is extraordinarily helpful and at the same time, it can be extraordinarily destructive. It depends on where it is coming from.

Early on, I connected with someone I admire and believe has my best interests in mind. When he says something critical about what I am doing or writing, I accept it wholeheartedly. Why? Because I know that it’s going to help me. It’s intended to help and not to hurt.

If you don’t know anyone like that yet, you should connect with someone you can trust to be honest with you, or join a group or forum where everyone gets critiqued. The ProBlogger.com forum members do a great job at critiquing (I had my About page critiqued there). In this way, you can reflect on things you probably didn’t realize you were doing and now need to stop, but in a way that is much less confrontational than when someone sends you a biting email or tough comment.

Evaluating Criticsm

Regardless of where the criticism comes from, you should evaluate it. Two questions I tend to internalize before taking criticism to heart are:

  • Is it true?
  • Does it provide solutions and or alternatives, or does it just leave me hanging?

The reason you want to evaluate criticism is so that you only spend time on that which will help you. Good criticism is priceless. We can’t see our own work the way other people do.

Handling Criticism

Everyone gets criticized, even pro bloggers. In fact, they probably get criticized more than anyone else. Not all of the criticism they get is constructive, either. But it’s part of the way this all works. At some point, someone is going to call you out for something.

Advice: take it like a pro.

Taking criticism like a pro is going to require that you actually know who you are, why you’re blogging, what your blog is about, and that you have a level of confidence that is difficult to shake. Pros don’t get publicly defensive (usually) and if they do, they’re criticized even more for acting like a baby.

Remember, it’s your blog. You can do with it what you want. No one is forced to become a reader or continue to read your blog, and you don’t have to answer to anyone. That said, by blogging, you’re turning yourself into a public figure, so when criticism surfaces, accept it, deal with it, and move on. Don’t let it get in the way. Either absorb it and let it help you or toss it.

Blogging Strategy: Planning for Criticism

How: One of the most popular channels of criticism for bloggers is going to be through the comments, so you may want to decide how you will deal with criticism received in that way. If the [intlink id="3273" type="post"]comments are rude[/intlink], you might want to implement a no nonsense policy for that. But don’t censor comments just because you don’t like them. That won’t help you grow, nor does it help you to become more teachable. Instead, practice letting down your defenses a little bit.

What I’ve noticed with the bigger, more prominent bloggers is that their blogs started off very narrow in focus, with fewer points to argue. As they grew, they approached more gray area topics, and that’s when the criticism starts. As you write more often, broach new subjects, and show more of your real personality, you might start to receive more abrasive reactions. If you do, these are great – embrace them. They help you grow.

Other possible channels for criticism are Twitter and Facebook. If you run into criticism in either of those places, there’s not much you can do. We can’t control the whole world, unfortunately! Manage your reputation while at the same time, note what’s being said. It might mean something needs to change. You can effectively manage your reputation by staying visible even in the face of mounting criticism. You don’t always have to acknowledge it, even if they are right. Simply change what needs to be changed and move on. Don’t add fuel to a fire that is about to burn out.

Your Turn: What do you think about criticism?

seospidy@Internet marketing August 10, 2010 at 3:07 am

Excellent Article about criticism Thanks for brief.

Kathy@Kathy Blogger August 2, 2010 at 6:14 pm

How you take criticism usually depends on who it is coming from. If it is coming from someone you don’t know, your first reaction is usually defensive. If it is from someone you know well then it can be taken in stride knowing that it is not a personal attack. Tactfulness is a rare gift that few people possess.

Tomas@Real estate Montenegro July 26, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Thanks for sharing the information. I found the details very helpful.

Sourish | Jailbreak Iphone 4 July 25, 2010 at 5:14 am

Positive criticism is always good for your blog . I wrote about this sometime back in my blog :

You may like to see here : http://www.sourishnath.com/blog/constructive-criticism-how-to-give-and-receive-it.html

Grey@Reloading Press July 23, 2010 at 11:24 pm

Your best advise is “Does it provide solutions and or alternatives, or does it just leave me hanging” I take the criticism on my sites only if they provide a solution or the answer is so obvious that I dont have to look. If I am left hanging then I will usually just write it off as not true criticism but more of an attack for some reason. A very fine line between the two.

Mia July 23, 2010 at 9:25 pm

I have never been one to let someone else, tell me what is right and wrong. I am having to learn to do this. It is really taking some work but, I know that you are right. Great article.

MsAfropolitan July 15, 2010 at 5:37 am

I enjoyed reading this, as a blogger you have to develop a tougher skin to protect your opinions, and your right to also shift opinions, like most humans do.

I see criticism as an opportunity to improve, and always assume first that it’s coming from a good place, unless proven wrong. If proven wrong, then I ignore the criticism, as it might not actually be intending to help you.

Tia Peterson July 15, 2010 at 10:39 am

Hi MsAfropolitan (great site name).

Ugh, I’ve learned the hard way to develop a tough skin. Started as a child (thankfully) so I’ve had many years of letting most things slide and really soaking in the good ones.

Thanks for your comment. :)

MsAfropolitan July 17, 2010 at 10:19 am

Hi Tia,
It made me glad to hear that you like my site name, thanks :)
I think your website is great btw, really useful stuff on here, subscribing!

Ching Ya@Social Media Blogging July 15, 2010 at 1:20 am

First visit here, Tia, all the way from Kristi’s blog. :) A good input, something that reminds me to change negativity into positivity. We can’t force anybody to agree or see things we do, but we can try to understand from their perspectives. It helps. Also, I think it’s important to respect other people’s opinions and not using harsh words when expressing disagreements. That’s the courtesy I think we should all have in all circumstances.

Thanks so much for the enlightenment.

@wchingya
Social/Blogging Tracker

Tia Peterson July 15, 2010 at 10:38 am

Hi Ching!!! Glad you stopped by. I love how we all end up finding each other.

You’re welcome. I love your points. If we could all learn both self-respect and respect for others, criticism would be given and received in the right ways!

Cheers,
Tia

Kok Siong @ Cancer Research July 13, 2010 at 4:51 pm

People tend to afraid about the criticism. When i just start blogging a year ago, i also afraid the critics from my readers. However, i start to appreciate the critics now. The critics help me to improve my blogging skill. I will encourage my readers to critic on any content in my blog.

Tia Peterson July 15, 2010 at 10:36 am

Hi Kok – Good! I think I ought to do more encouraging critiques here. Everyone likes to have a say, and in the end, at least in my opinion, blogs are communities and are only as good as the people who contribute.

Katy @ rival crock pots July 13, 2010 at 2:04 pm

You are correct. I use it for my gain. I usually make things better when someone does this to me.

Tia Peterson July 15, 2010 at 10:35 am

Hi Katy – Same here. So far, I’ve yet to receive solid criticism that I haven’t carefully considered. Sometimes, I still choose not to implement the ideas but I always take it into consideration.

Daniel Sharkov@Marketing Product Reviews July 13, 2010 at 7:06 am

Criticism is definitely a good way of improving yourself and in that case your blog and the way you blog. Being able to take critiques is without a doubt a good thing. I know a lot of people who just lack that skill and can’t even take friendly critiques.

Tia Peterson July 15, 2010 at 10:34 am

Hey Daniel – I know, right!? It’s okay, though, because eventually, we all learn the hard way.

Alison@nappy changing bags July 13, 2010 at 3:53 am

Hmm. Never been a great one for accepting criticism but your words are wise. About to start a blog and I guess I’d better get used to it. Thanks for the advice.

Tia Peterson July 15, 2010 at 10:33 am

Yes, lol! Especially if your blog is going to be well-read. It really depends on the content, though. Some content just doesn’t invite criticism while other content does.

Jan@ corner bathroom sinks July 12, 2010 at 10:00 pm

This is all great news, but I do not like to take it. I put up a shield and have to learn it the hard way.

Tia Peterson July 15, 2010 at 10:33 am

Most of us do. :)

ashok July 12, 2010 at 9:20 pm

I really like your advice about finding someone you can trust. Early on with this blogging thing, a reader who kept up with everything I wrote and saw a good portion of the Internet was someone I kept coming back to for his insight. At times he’d suggest things, and I wouldn’t even hesitate – I’d change them immediately in accordance with his suggestions.

It is possible to really want criticism and move forward. That having been said, 99% of the criticism one gets on the Internet is worthless unless you know exactly where you’re going (i.e. Problogger forums, as you mentioned above).

Tia Peterson July 15, 2010 at 10:32 am

Hi Ashok – Also agree with you on that so much of what’s out there online is bogus and not helpful. Seeking out good criticism from those who have been there before is a good step. Even with that, it’s essential to be able to see our own blogs for what they are and to carefully consider the consequences before making changes that other people suggest.

Rose July 12, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Excellent points. I believe criticism is part of the blogging journey as long as it is criticism that is helpful & not hurtful.

Tia Peterson July 15, 2010 at 10:30 am

Hi Rose – I agree. I discard criticism that’s intentionally hurtful. That’s not the way to get a point across.

Thanks for commenting!

Jean Sarauer July 12, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Hi Tia. My immediate, gut level reaction is usually a feeling of ‘ouch!’ but then I try to find the truth in the message. Sometimes the criticism helps me see something I’ve overlooked so I can grow . . . other times it’s shown me that the person criticizing me is unhappy or lacking something in their life and that gives me compassion. Sometimes it can introduce me to my ego too :)

Tia Peterson July 12, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Yes, same here on all points. Except most of the time I struggle with compassion for people who criticize often. :) Probably should have more compassion.

JamestheJust on Elance July 12, 2010 at 9:04 am

I do have a few things that I found totally wrong with this post…

First off:…alright, I can’t do it – GREAT POST! I FB’d it, love the pic. Tia, you’re spot-on. Thanks!

Tia Peterson July 12, 2010 at 9:26 am

Thanks, James! Perfect intro… I’m very gullible so you would have had me. LOL

–Tia

Joseph Archibald@seo tips July 12, 2010 at 7:37 am

So much to say but so little space to say it, unless you really go out on a limb and indulge me that is, Tia? ;-)

Febap has provided a good example of her own here, which touches on many different fronts.

Tim Ferris of “the 4 hour work week” made mention in one of his previous emails (along these lines) – “if no one is criticising you with regards your work online, then you are not doing enough”.

I myself do not take negative criticisim too lightly. But on the other hand, I now realize that I am free to live the life that I wish to live, without dependancy upon others.

Thus any criticism I am now free to take on board or treat as being whimsical and somewhat senseless.

Its a mindset, after all, and it becomes easier to deal with when we have circumstances that allow for simply “brushing it off”.

The rich and famous recevie criticsm all the time, so what to do – get all upset about the slightest critique, or get on with life regardless? In this case they have no choice but to move on regardless.

Maybe we as bloggers should take this as how we must progress. As we become more familiar to many others within the blog-o-sphere, we are sure to get at least some criticism. But to make progress we must either take this on board and benefit from it, or else drop it and move forwards regardless.

Tia Peterson July 12, 2010 at 9:25 am

Great thoughts, Jo. You and I are very much alike, I believe. That’s why we connect so well.

Internally, I still don’t take criticism as well as I would like. But my approach, rather than brushing it off my shoulder, so to speak, is to put it in its place. I’ll savage the good parts and discard the bad.

Sherryl Perry@Tips for Entrepreneurs July 12, 2010 at 6:00 am

Taking criticism is something I always struggled with in the corporate world and it’s because I tend to take critique personally. I agree totally with you that you have to evaluate the criticism. As long as it’s not intentionally mean spirited (which I have to believe is rare), as you say – “take it like a pro”. I have to admit I’ve never thought of planning for criticism as part of my blogging strategy. That’s a good point and one I hadn’t (but should) considered yet.

Tia Peterson July 12, 2010 at 9:20 am

I struggled with it in the corporate world, also. You were in IT as well as I was; working with grimacing developers (or clients) is no easy task! :)

I wonder if people who overly criticize or proactively do it just don’t realize that they are (many times) out of line. I try very hard to give people the benefit of the doubt.

As for blogging plan, I have given a lot of thought to criticism and how I’ll handle it. I practice, actually. lol That’s why I join forums and things like that; it’s like rubbing just a little salt on a wound (well, in the old days, before Neosporin or peroxide). A little bit of sting can be very effective at making it better.

Vinfotech July 12, 2010 at 5:42 am

Many thanks for this post. It’s a very nice and motivating post.

Duchess OBlunt July 12, 2010 at 3:04 am

Constructive criticism is just so much easier to handle. But I hear you. When I receive the type I don’t like – even the rude comments – I find if I don’t walk away and let it simmer for awhile, I say things I shouldn’t, AND receive no benefit from it. Good article.

Tia Peterson July 12, 2010 at 9:16 am

Hey Duchess – Good to “see” you here on the blog. :)

I’m glad to know other people have the tendency to react to criticism the same way I have in the past! Over time, I think I just got so much of it, that I learned to “listen” and “file away,” and I do not revisit most of it. But some, especially the kind from my friends and colleagues, is well-received. I need it.

Rude comments get flushed.

Febap Liew | Making Money Online Today July 12, 2010 at 2:34 am

Hey tia,
what a coincidence, i was just writing on another post that touches on the topic of ‘Criticism’.
you are exactly right. Criticism comes in many form and many way. Inevitably, how we ‘grow’ or ‘fall’ from it depends greatly on how we go about handling it. We can either take it like a pro or sulk and whine wondering why on earth people would talk about such mean things to you.

However, as we speak, criticism comes in many form. Some are bad and some are good. Criticism that comes in a form of ‘giving yourself excuses’ is definitely bad!

Such example I can relate to is as followed :
i was explaining to some of my buddies about the prospect of working online. Of course , they got interested by knowing just how lucrative such business is. Opting to earn as how I had did online, one of them went about to set up his own blog and as usual has the sudden passion of making it ‘big’ like me. However, weeks passed, so did months, the results weren’t as what he had expected.
He later called it quit and claims that I was just hyping matters up about making money online. Claiming how impossible it is and that there is no way to go about making legitimate money than to have a full time offline job. As a result, he gave up and believe that such opportunities are never meant to be.

Most often time, emotion plays a very critical part in deciding either we stand back up or back away from such failures. Adopting a new belief negatively when times are bad can subsequently cause great harm.

exactly as you mentioned, tia, we can’t control the way other think or react but we can control every bit of managing such situation.
=)
cheers

Tia Peterson July 12, 2010 at 9:13 am

Hey Febap – I totally agree – emotions are the culprit when we react negatively to criticism. It can help to keep them in check. Putting things in perspective goes a long way.

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