People can criticize an opinion you shared, a new WordPress template you designed, or even a simple question you asked on your blog. Since we spend most of our working hours online, we’re especially prone to public displays of criticism, some of which are inflammatory.
How do we deal with the critics without damaging our careers?
Take a step back. While it’s perfectly normal to have an initial upset reaction to your critics, it’s best to step back for a while before you defend yourself. Immediately responding to critics might add fuel to the fire and cause more damage than you’d be willing to handle.
Don’t take it personally. Paradoxically, this is even more important when a critic starts making personal attacks at you. If the comments aren’t constructive and have nothing to do with your work, then they’re not worth thinking about.
Also, people who rant online aren’t necessarily targeting you. It’s entirely possible that they’re not in a good mood to begin with and they’ve been seeing the glass half-empty all day. Since you never completely know all the reasons why someone would criticize you harshly, it’s best not to let it get the best of you.
Get a filter. You can get your partner or a friend to read what your critics have to say. The constructive ideas, they can pass on to you so you can use the feedback to improve your work. But there are some less-constructive attacks that you don’t need to know about.
Reply to those who are worth replying to. When Seth Godin recently wrote the blog post “Ads are the new online tip jar“, he received what he called a “firestorm” in his inbox. Aside from that, several bloggers wrote their own reactions to that post in their own blogs. Soon after, Godin wrote another post clarifying his point. In this case, it was essential that he replied. After all, the counterarguments he received were valid, and it was important that a proper discussion ensued. The discussion will oftentimes be more important than what other people have to say about you per se.
Trolls who send you anonymous and illogical hate mail, on the other hand, should just be ignored.
Learn and move on. If one of your web design projects was featured at Web Pages That Suck,figure out why it got there. Did a client corner you into incorporating his bad taste into your design? Was it a rushed project? Was it created in the mid-1990’s? Asking ourselves where the criticism comes from helps us to avoid making the same mistake twice.
If some of the criticism starts making sense and helps you find a weakness in your own work, it helps to consider those ideas and see how you can learn from them. This could be a painful process, but one you have to go through if you want to grow professionally. I know I have yet to master it, but I’m working my way towards that.
Criticism doesn’t always have to feel so negative. When we filter out the clutter and choose to learn from our mistakes, what seems like a bad day at work can become an important stepping stone in our careers.
Were you ever criticized publicly on the web? What did you do about it?