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How Do You Handle Harsh Criticism?

"You will always get criticism, but I believe that if you learn not to take it personally, you can grow from it"
Filter It

I think that a lot of business owners don’t know how to handle criticism and ultimately it’s what can ruin them. You will always get criticism, but I believe that if you learn not to take it personally, you can grow from it.

  1. When someone criticizes you, the first step is to tell them that they are right — after that, half the issue is resolved because they feel like you understand them.
  2. I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to argue back, even if the person is wrong. If they want a change in the product that you don’t agree with, make the change and then present both while explaining why you think the first is better. They’re more likely to hear you once you showed that you’re not just being lazy about their feedback. They’ll take your response more seriously.
  3. As the business owner, never throw criticism back on the team. Before you relay negative feedback, take a deep breath and filter it. If you relay too much of the criticism, the staff will be upset and won’t want to work with that client anymore.

—Shlome Steinmetz, CEO of Pivot Group NYC

Welcome It

I’m actually a very big fan of criticism as long as it’s constructive. Don’t take it personally! Each time that you receive constructive feedback from your clients, it gives you a new opportunity to prove they made the right decision by going with you as opposed to your competitor, and it also gives you the chance to take that feedback and tweak your process to improve your company.

—Dovid Gabay

Cushion It

If someone has something valid to share it’s important to be open to hearing it, as painful as it is, because it’s going to help you to be a better business owner and service provider. Thankfully it happens rarely, but when it does it keeps me humble and forces me to improve. On the flip side, when it comes to delivering criticism, I’m extremely careful to always start with the positives — especially if it’s a staff member who’s really doing a good job but just needs a quick reminder about something. Say something falls through the cracks. I’ll ask, “Why did that happen and how can we help you to make sure it doesn’t happen again?”

—Fran Jakubowicz, CEO of SunHouse Marketing

Learn From It

Criticism can be efficient and empowering and it can be misleadingly disheartening. Giving it is easy. Taking it is an art. When it comes to criticism, I think most people see their options as taking it well or not taking it well. I believe the true options are whether to take it to heart or whether not to take it at all, and the true skill is knowing when to do which. The difference here is crucial. What lies in the balance is your ability to grow and learn while not leaving your drive captive to other people’s words.

I was rejected by over fifty investors before receiving our first deal for Swimply’s seed round. I was rejected over one hundred times before we closed our Series A. My primary source of education, period, has been from those rejections and the comments that came with them.Their feedback could easily have been the reason for me to lose the love for what we were building and give up too soon.

I don’t just take criticism, but there are circumstances when I even encourage people to give it, such as when I’m with my team. One of the important values at Swimply is transparency. I want everyone to feel empowered to speak up and share their ideas and counter ideas regardless of hierarchy. We encourage feedback from anyone and everyone even if it means some friction, because it’s how Swimply grows and that’s how I continue to grow. Who is wise? He who learns from others.

—Bunim Laskin, founder at Swimply

Moving Targets

The number-one characteristic of every great leader is clarity. And the number-one thing that can bring a company down is when the leader doesn’t translate that clarity to the team. Your team is seeing you do things and they have no idea why. In order to make things happen, they need to know the vision and the target.

—Meny Hoffman, CEO of Ptex Group and host of the Let’s Talk Business podcast


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 853)

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