How to handle criticism well
Working on Succeed.com, my partner put me on a call with a guy who he called a veteran entrepreneur who had experience in the hiring space. Totally qualified. MBA from Oxford. Sold a recruiting firm. Building existing profitable businesses now. Had a cool accent. I pitch him on what Succeed.com is and do my best two minute pitch. I say we are trying to wipe out the job application process, get people free skill evaluation, provide people mountains of free courses to use and charge zero to employers and employees doing it. Make hiring very easy and a positive experience. Pitched it to him and he wasn’t positive. So against it he kind of just said to ditch this idea and do something else. And while I respect this person, am happy to work with him and even think he was right on some points, I’m not going to listen to most of his criticisms if any.
To start this off, I’ve faced criticism and rejection in business maybe a thousand times in my life. It’s never fun, easy or nice to hear, but it’s just an important part of being an Entrepreneur, artist, athlete or anything. And I’m happy to take criticism on just about anything from just about anyone. I’ve had the heaviest and poorest groom guy I’ve ever met comment on how he thinks my abs could be better and said “I agree”. I had a dude who shoots awful videos no one watches reviewing tacos who thought microwaves caused cancer criticize me on social media strategy and I called him half right. I’ve had it all from big names and small names to the point I needed to write an article on this.
Starting the article off before getting back into how I’ve handled criticism before, I’d just name four types of critics. Also, making it clear, all of these four hold some value, but also can be totally useless at the same time. Some are way more valuable over others.
Number One-The Positive Critic
This is probably the most valuable one, because it normally comes off the most real. These are critics who actually say good things, listen and are real on thoughts. They are the people who truly want a person to succeed. They put work into what they have to say and focus on making people feel better.
Number Two-The Smart Contrarian
These critics hold value, but very well could be the most useless of the four. This is the person who listens, but NEVER has a positive response. The key is that they are smart, may try to sound positive, may try to seem like they care and the end of the day, they’ll never really have anything good to say at all. These guys are smart, but normally sort of depressed and just will dig people into a hole where they use knowledge to make people upset.
Number Three-The Idiot
For this one, the idiot is the person who just doesn’t listen, but says a view. Some are positive. Some are negative. Some are in between. These are the people who didn’t really pay attention, so ignoring them can be important. The reason to put them above the negative contrarians though for me is this. Sometimes the idiots who don’t listen make the best advice, because very few people do listen. Talking to someone who has a record of not paying attention is of value, because if they can be caught and forced to give an opinion, the pitch of talking to people is working.
Number Four-The Simon Cowell
This one is the toughest, because this is a critic who is actually an expert in what they are saying. A person who knows the industry well and can say from experience an educated answer why and sometimes be a little more hostile. For this, the only response I can give is simple. Sometimes they are right. Sometimes they are wrong. Just a truth.
Dealing with the four types of critics is key, but anyone trying to do anything in life to succeed will have them. For that, in all cases, here’s a quick breakdown on each critic and being able to counter each one individually.
The Positive Critic
- Ask them to be tougher. Don’t be afraid to just go “Are you being honest with me?”
- Ask them to explain the positive. Often times the positive critics phone in a positive feeling, but can’t explain it. Ask them why they were positive on parts of something. If they can’t explain well, they were just being nice.
The Smart Contrarian
- Listen. The smart contrarians while they might be negative gave the time to listen. Give it back. Listen to the complaints, but just never emotionally have it be of much impact. Mental impact, sure. Emotional, no.
- Talk. Don’t argue. Don’t get emotional. Just talk. Explain differences of opinion or reasons why criticisms might be wrong or how to fix those.
- Leave. At the end of the conversation, just feel free to walk. Learn a lesson, get better at pitching what needs to be pitched and accept the fact it’s sometimes a different opinion.
- Don’t get angry. This is the key to dealing with the person who just didn’t listen or care. Don’t be upset, because asking someone to care and form an opinion is a lot. Ignoring a venture pitch. Not reading the screenplay. Not giving an opinion on a job CV. If they can’t be devoted, just accept that’s who they are. For this, I’d recommend trying to avoid these people as friends, family, partners or relationships.
- Show them something better. My best friend Raj is a great guy and a smart guy. However, when I call him up to talk about Pokémon, sex and movies, he doesn’t want to hear my new business idea or whatever. However, when I send him something I made that’s tangle, can be felt and real, he’s game for a real convo with his thoughts. Some people just don’t want to invest the time into something not really developed much. For these people who aren’t paying attention, focus on getting them to listen. Normally it makes whatever a person is trying to do better.
The Simon Cowell
- Do not cry. These are the ones that hurt the most, because this is the person with expertise. Positive or negative criticism, it’s going to suck hearing it. And for that, just take it and listen. It’s just an experience of truth.
- Don’t argue. These people know way more on this and have an opinion set. They likely won’t ever budge on it until proven wrong and very very little to really change it.
- Thank them for their time. The contact is great to have. Don’t be the person to botch it.
- Prove them wrong or quit. This part is just the person who was criticized choice ultimately. After being mature and likely upset, make the choice to keep going forward or quit. It’s ultimately a call for everyone to make and no real answer I can offer. Some people are going to make this and get proven wrong. Some people will make this call and prove the Simon Cowell wrong. Some will quit and be worse off for it wondering what could have been. Some will quit and go find something better.
Writing this, my core point is criticism is just part of life. It’s going to happen and be useless sometimes, valuable others and mean occasionally.
For Succeed.com, I was met with criticism from a smart and successful person, I chose not to take a good chunk of things mentioned and a few days later, I spoke to a former project manager at LinkedIn who had a successful data firm previously and he really liked the idea. Gave great advice, helped me improve the concept more and said yes to being an advisor. And for the other guy, great advice was given also.
He said I am wrong to make Succeed.com 100% free for employers to hire people.
He said I couldn’t get the data for Succeed.com to properly match people and I’d be beat by Facebook & Google. Two sites who aren’t in hiring minus Facebook which has sort of a poor product there.
He said I should be more like themuse.com, focus on media and do traditional job listings.
And honestly, all three points held value. Succeed being 100% for free can make a serious problem to monetize. Succeed does struggle to get data better and better to wipe applications out. Succeed also would probably monetize way easier if we did the traditional model.
But hey, that’s just not what I’m going to do. He pitched a path for potentially stronger monetization in a shorter period of time. I don’t want that. I want to have people drop indeed and start succeed. I want every person to know Succeed and change hiring forever.
For this article, I wrote this as a personal story, but put in clear advice. I hope everyone can read this and know criticism is important be it from a billionaire or just that friend from high school who doesn’t do much. Every opinion matters, but how to handle it, listen to it and how it impacts progress is key.
I’m Succeed.com founder Charles Peralo. Thanks for reading and hope this helped. @CharlesPeralo on Instagram or Charles@Succeed.com. Feel free to message me and see if I can offer any valuable criticism.