How to Handle Constructive Criticism like a Pro
Criticism can be difficult to swallow no matter the situation. But as a business owner, it’s vital to be receptive to feedback from your customers and coworkers: their feedback can be extremely beneficial to the growth and development of your business.
Throughout our lives, we receive criticism in one form or another – but it’s up to us to decide what to do with it. As a business owner, receiving constructive criticism is essential to your business’s journey because it illustrates where adjustments can be made to improve. Receiving constructive feedback, whether in a performance review or from a coworker, could elicit a fight-or-flight response. By training your thoughts to manage the emotions associated with receiving criticism, you can avoid getting caught up in negative emotions and instead focus on the positive feedback.
Criticism tends to get a bad rap, when in fact more types of positive feedback types exist than negative feedback. Criticism falls under either constructive or destructive criticism. While people tend to prefer constructive criticism, which is delivered with compassion to provide guidance, destructive criticism is still beneficial when considering opportunities to improve your business. Destructive criticism is often just thoughtlessness on the part of the criticizer. It is criticism that uses hurtful language or a harmful tone. The key is to listen to the message of this criticism rather than the attitude with which it is delivered.
Whether constructive or destructive, feedback is meaningless unless action is taken from listening and learning. So, what steps can you take to make the most of any feedback or criticism you receive?
If a coworker or a customer is willing to take their time to give you feedback, it’s generally because they want to see something improve. When receiving their feedback, try to put yourself in their shoes and consider the situation from their point of view.
If the feedback is given in person, the very first step – and the most crucial – is to listen to understand. Active listening involves a pattern of attention-giving that makes another person feel engaged in a conversation. You can use an array of body language and non-verbal cues, including eye contact and nodding, that reassures a speaker that another is listening.
Be proactive: ask your team members or customers for specific examples and actionable feedback if you are not receiving these things. There are always areas of improvement, and asking for constructive criticism will show that you are listening and willing to grow.
On the other hand, be sure to disengage from unhealthy habits. Aim to avoid interrupting, distracting, and forgetting what the speaker has mentioned. These actions imply you are not actively listening, but rather waiting to get a word in without a lot of thought.
If you receive feedback from a customer, they may not always be right. In general, though, it is more important to retain a customer than it is to prove a point. After listening to their feedback, reassure your customer that you will strive to meet possible solutions. This is not to say to make empty promises (that can make a bad review even worse). Rather, as a business owner providing a product or service, assuming responsibility provides you with the opportunity to remedy the situation for a positive outcome. It also puts you in control and demonstrates leadership skills.
It’s human nature to become defensive under scrutiny, but accepting that everyone makes mistakes will enable you to grow as a business owner. The power to combat emotions with logic is the key to preventing an overreaction or rash decision. While this sounds simple, don’t forget pleasantries like “thank you” during these exchanges as they can turn a situation from losing a customer towards the road to recovery and retention.
By staying calm and certain that there will be a resolution, a customer will often change their emotional response to a situation. Set the tone so that you rebuild any trust that may have been lost. More importantly, follow through with actionable possible solutions. When setting out to solve an issue, make sure you set a timeline and concrete action items to ensure it does not slip through the cracks.
Reflect & Resolve
When distinguishing facts from emotions, it is vital for you to consider a situation from multiple angles. Consider what went wrong in your business’s current operational processes, and locate any areas of improvement. Establish measures to prevent this from happening again, and identify why the customer reacted the way they did in the first place. Perhaps there is a pain point in the customer journey experience that you have overlooked. Happy customers will organically spread the word about your business when satisfied with their experience, so taking this step will improve your business in the long run.
Learning to take constructive criticism is a two-way street. It will also evolve into delivering good feedback to your team for them to find areas of improvement. Being a business owner requires thick skin as there will always be feedback from all around.
Staying true to the core of your business while also allowing for flexibility in response to actionable feedback will help your customer base expand and flourish.