I’ve noticed that multipotentialites in particular tend to be extra sensitive to criticism, since we often feel misunderstood by the culture already. Not only do we fear criticism about the content of the work, but we worry that people will criticize our choice to pursue “yet another project” in the first place.
My role here isn’t to tell you to “let it go,” or to have a thick skin. That works for some people, but honestly, very few. I mean sure, getting exposed to enough criticism helps thicken your skin I suppose, but I never fully believe someone when they say that criticism doesn’t get to them. Unsolicited criticism always sucks, especially when it comes from someone who isn’t a part of your audience or isn’t putting anything out there in the world themselves (which it almost always does).
What about general negativity or poor/non-reactions?
Chances are, that if you’re making an effort to help people and bring value into the world, you won’t get nearly as much criticism you fear you will. I don’t get much criticism myself. Certainly not relative to all of the thank yous I receive. Still, occasionally someone will unsubscribe from my email list for a dumb reason, take issue with one of my posts or request a book refund (which I think has happened a total of 3 times), and yeah, it hurts. It’s like Barbara Sher says, “One bit of criticism cannot be overcome by fourteen complements.”
But now with the Puttytribe up and running, I’ve had to prepare myself for this terrifying thing called… membership cancellations!
We’ve got a retention rate of like 92%, which is pretty damn stellar. It means that we’ve got some happy Puttypeep in there (which in turn makes me happy. 🙂 But when someone does leave, it’s feels pretty painful because usually I know this person. We’ve connected before. Moreover, they are one of my peep and so it feels like I let them down.
I try to remind myself that people cancel subscriptions to all services for all kinds of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with you. They don’t have time to use the service, they ran into some financial trouble, and so on.
Although refunds, unsubscribes and cancellations aren’t quite the same as criticism, they often feel just as bad. It’s easy to internalize them and blame yourself, even if the reason has nothing to do with you.
Some good ways to deal with criticism
How do most people deal with criticism and negativity? If they’re smart, they let it hurt, and then maybe pull out their small wins notebook or “woo! file” that contains praise from happy people, and they remind themselves that they’re making a positive difference in peoples lives—that there are those who love their work and those are the people that matter. Maybe they call up and friend or talk to a loved one, to get the hurt feelings out.
If there’s a lesson to be learned or something constructive in the criticism, they take note of it and try to do better.
This is all great stuff. But lately I’ve been trying a new approach. I’ve been experimenting with creating a system or protocol for negative reactions.
Creating a system
Very few people prepare for what they will do when criticism hits. Most of us prefer not to think about it, we just silently pray that negative reactions never come and then react (understandably) poorly when they do.
Here’s an idea. Why not be proactive, and plot out exactly what you will do when you get a negative reaction.
My system now consists of emailing the person right away and asking for feedback. Once that’s done, I immediately find a way to help someone else. This might mean replying in depth to an email from a puttypeep or posting a reply to someone’s question in the Tribe.
Having a system in place puts you in an action-based mindset as opposed to a results-based one
The reason that jumping right back in and helping someone else is so effective, is that it’s proactive. It makes you feel useful and reminds you that you are helping people.
There’s no better way to beat negativity than by diving into Hard Work. By focusing on helping your people, you’re taking the focus off of the results of your actions, and placing it on the work itself. That’s all you can control anyway.
How do you deal with negative reactions to your meaningful work?