5 Sweet Ways to Handle Criticism

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 2.53.53 PMRaise your hand if someone has ever disagreed with, disliked, or even disrespected you in public (or private message).

(Yep. That’s errrrbody.)

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 3.47.06 PM

Here’s the thing, dude. When we put ourselves out there – as friends, as professionals, and especially as entrepreneurs, we open ourselves up to criticism. Skepticism. Haterade. It’s part of the game.

It’s not easy to swallow. It’s not easy to shake. (And for some of us, it’s not easy to keep from running to the nearest pint of cookies ‘n’ cream.)

But don’t break out the spoon just yet, friend. You can’t control your critics, but you can absolutely control how you respond to them.

Today I’m going to give you five sweet ways to handle criticism, whether it’s constructive, hateful, or downright entertaining.

My First Public “Controversy”

My unconventional launch story was shared over on Liz Lockard’s blog earlier this week, titled “How to Make $21,000 in Six Weeks.”

Considering the sensational (albeit accurate) headline, I wasn’t surprised to wake up yesterday morning and face my first dose of public skepticism.

The commenter questioned the credibility of my launch story, and to be honest, I don’t blame her!

  1. It’s kind of a crazy tale.
  2. She doesn’t know me.
  3. She didn’t have all the facts (it was an email Q&A, not an E! True Hollywood Story).

I get it. And I actually appreciate that she admitted her skepticism. It gave me an opportunity to fill in the details for future skeptics (I’m sure she’s not the only one!).

I posted a thoughtful response and opened the situation up for discussion with my friends and followers. Throughout the day, the Facebook discussion was honest, enlightening, and at times, deliciously feisty.

A number of folks said that IF they’d responded at all, they probably would’ve included some …colorful… language and a digital right hook. I saw that as a) awesome, and b) a perfect excuse to write this post.

The way I see it, it’s okay if somebody rains on my parade every once in a while. That’s how we get rainbows over here. (Tweet that!)

We’ve gotta learn how to take this stuff in stride!

Criticism comes in many forms.

A skeptic says “That’s impossible.” A healthy skeptic says, “Prove it.”

A critic says “You’re wrong.” A constructive critic says, “Here’s a better way to do that.”

A hater says, “You $uck,” and proceeds to throw rotten tomatoes, sour grapes, and other grumpy fruits in your direction.

For the purposes of this post, I’m talking about any or all of the above.

Whether it’s constructive or not, it can sting when you hear that somebody doesn’t like your business, your personality, or your latest haircut.

Alas, when you take the chance to be authentic – to be vulnerable – it’s gonna happen. You best learn how to deal.

The way I see it, you’ve got five good options.

#1 Take it as a compliment.

If people care enough to criticize you, it means you’re worth talking about. Congratulations!

I mean seriously. Think about it:
People only try to bring you down when you’re on your way UP. Shake ’em off and KEEP CLIMBING. (Tweet that!)

#2 Take it as an opportunity to reflect.

Sometimes we get so caught up in going – going – going that we don’t pause to evaluate our process or our purpose. When someone takes time to provide feedback (even if it’s totally nonsensical), we’re forced to slow down and reflect on what’s working and what’s not.

That’s a good thing!

#3 Take it as inspiration to improve.

Is there merit to the critique? Very well could be!

Make a conscious choice to learn from the experience and improve yourself, your business, or your process as a result. Take the lesson, and throw the rest away.

#4 Take it as an opportunity to hone your communication skills.

Truth be told, lots of critics, skeptics, and haters don’t even DESERVE a response. On occasion, however, this is a social challenge worth accepting.

If you feel the need to respond, swallow your pride and do so as thoughtfully and respectfully as you can. Tempting as it may be, don’t fan the flames. Short ‘n’ sweet.

You belong on the high road, baby!

#5 Take it as a chance to start a conversation.

When I saw that comment, I could’ve internalized it and kept it to myself, BUT: I had a hunch that it would spark an interesting and worthwhile discussion. I was right!

Use this feedback as a chance to engage with your audience. There’s always something interesting a new perspective (or 50) can bring.

However you take it, don’t take it personally.

It’s easy to stand back and criticize people when you’re not in the game. (Hello, armchair quarterbacks + backseat drivers.) It’s a lot harder to be out on the field taking the hits.

When someone criticizes you, the most important thing you can do is to take your emotions out of the equation. Is it about you, or is it really about them?

SPOILER ALERT: It’s usually about them. They probably see something in you that they want for themselves  – or don’t like about themselves – and you’re catching the awkward end of it.

Try and look at it as objectively as possible and remember that you can’t please everybody.

The next time you get some criticism from a member of the drive-by peanut gallery, read these words from Dr. Brené Brown:

Anonymous comments? You’re not in the arena, man. If you can’t say it to me in person in front of my kids, don’t say it. And if you can say it to me in person, duck.

Let’s talk about it

If you needed to hear this today and you know of a few friends who would like it, please spread the word using the icons up to the left!

Then, in the comments below, tell me:

What’s one of the most ridiculous comments you’ve ever received – and how did you deal with it?

What’s your best tip or trick to not taking it personally?



  1. Suzi

    As usual, you handle adversity with grace, my friend. I LOVE these tips. I know for a lot of us who are doing what we love for a living, we are always kind of waiting for someone to come along and tell us we aren’t good enough. And even if we see it coming, it STINGS. Your perspective is so helpful!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      So glad this one’s helpful, Suzi! It was a BEAST to try and condense all of this week’s lessons (and juicy topics) into one blog post. Lots more to come, for sure.

      Keep shining, my friend!!

  2. Barbara Foxworth

    Excellent advice… I love the quote “People can only try to bring you down if you’re on your way UP. Shake ‘em off and KEEP CLIMBING.”

    You know you must be doing something right! :-)

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Right, Barbara?! Everybody says that – if you’ve got haters, you must be doing something right. But it really clicked this week.

      People can’t bring you down unless you’re goin’ UP. Thought it was a helpful visual to share :)

  3. HeatherLeigh

    Beautifully said Nikki! If we are making a difference then we are bound to make someone mad.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Absolutely, HL! And imagine what the world would be like if everyone was *scared* to make a difference for fear of criticism. THAT would be scary.

  4. Monica de Liz

    You’re simply luminous, I’m so proud of you woman! Keep following your heart and speaking your truth. This post reminds me of the Law of Least Effort: “Today I will accept people, situations, circumstances, and events as they occur. This means I will know that this moment is as it should be. I accept things as they are, not as you wish they were.” – Have a super blessed trip!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      YOU are simply luminous, Monica! What a beautiful compliment :)

      (And I really mean it, because your light shines brightly, friend.)

      Thank you for sharing that!

  5. Marilee

    Love it Nikki! Thanks for reminding me to not take criticism personally-I always need to be reminded of that! I have found that constructive critics/skeptics can be really useful (allowing me to see things from a perspective that I hadn’t thought about before) and haters are completely irrelevant, so I just need to do as you say…”shake ’em off and KEEP CLIMBING”!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      That’s right, Marilee! I think we ALL need the reminder, myself included. That’s why I figured it’d be good to get it in writing for future reference ;)

  6. Teri Smart

    This has certainly been the talk of the week! So, for me? I started learning to deal with criticism in Art class in college, where student had to criticize each others work.. Awesome experience! Now I love “constructive” criticism! But, in this case (not so constructive) I’ve had some unkind words hit me and, outwardly, my auto response is to laugh! (Strange eh?) i cant help it! But inside I still feel those pins and needles.. And then I look to see if its true. If its not, eh.. If it is, then it’s a great opportunity to be better inside and out. I love how you handled this, with class and style (hence “Communicafion Stylist” !). You have many who love you and are inspired by you! I’m just sorry this one person is missing it all.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Thanks for the sweet words, Teri! And I LOVE the laugh reflex. Fabulous auto-response to have.

  7. TheSavvyLady

    You did great Nikki! Keep up the good work!

  8. Kerina

    You are awesome!

  9. Jane Philpott

    Well done for handling this with calmness and dignity, Nikki.

    I found Bonnie Gillespie’s blog post on this subject helpful too.

    Bonnie says she never deletes negative comments from her site, tempting though it may be, as invariably your fans come to your rescue. You discovered this for yourself, which must be affirming.

    Congratulations to you and Suzi for producing such a beautiful website :)

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Thank you, Jane!

      The negative stuff is part of the deal, for sure. The optimist in me looks for the silver lining, and the keep-it-realer in me says “do not delete”!

      (Unless it’s spam or totally offensive in some way. This is a family show.)

  10. Lindsey

    Aloha Nikki! Thanks for the words of wisdom with this killer blog! It really got my wheels turning and would love to know your opinion…

    I empower indigenous women to create Beach Chic clothing for the trendsetter stepping out to make a difference, one unique piece at a time.

    Thanks! xoxo, Lindsey Parry

  11. Shay Johnson

    Your site is great. I think people criticize because they just can not image you doing something in 6 weeks that they have been trying to do for a year. It’s so mind-blowing that their natural minds can not accept it!

    I experienced this in my first year in business too. I was booked 2 weeks in advance my first year in business.

    I think sometimes you just have the right dynamic at the right time and things click. I love when that happens :)

    But of course we know eventually comes the blood, sweat and tears. We all have to pay our dues, running a business is lots of hard work. But it is amazing when doors just fly open for you in those special moments. Gotta just love when you get a moment of bliss!

    Congrats on your success and keep up the awesome work.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Absolutely, Shay. Thank you for the thoughtful comment, and congrats on a great start!

      People get hung up when they assume new means inexperienced. If that were the case, I would’ve flopped right outta the gate. I think most folks don’t realize that even though I’m new to the online business world, I’ve been studying, practicing, and teaching communication for the better part of a decade.

      The only difference is that now my classroom is a whole lot bigger, and my clients pay tuition directly to me ;)

      BLESSED is the word. I love this stuff.

  12. Kat

    Great post! In business and personal life I notice the better I do the more people can’t stand being around me and have to throw rocks from the sidelines. It can be very depressing but the higher you climb the lonlier it can seem. That is until you find more people like yourself will to put themselves out there. The green eyed monster makes seemingly nice folks act crazy. It’s important to remember its more about them than you. When they are stuck in a space they feel traped and helpless in they lose hope that there is a way out. Like the flea in the glass jar trying to jump out but hitting the lid. One day that lid will be gone, but if you stop jumping that’s on you.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Great visual, Kat. That poor little flea is probably fatigued ;) but YES, gotta encourage folks to keep jumping!

  13. Lisa Boggs

    I loved the posts of experiences and helpful advice –
    I had a true bully for a boss for 3-4 years. It was rough! Some great words of wisdom from a colleague to me were, be direct, be brief, be gone.
    Thanks for sharing!
    People today need good advice and direction.
    I got out of there finally and now have the best job I’ve ever had! Woot!

  14. Tonette

    Love the Brené Brown quote. :) Will keep this in mind. And I must say, you handled that more eloquently than I probably would. Kudos!

  15. Therese

    I use to teach college level computer classes. I was evaluated by each student on every course I taught. At first, any negative comments, no matter how obscure, devastated me. I ignored the positive comments. After several evaluations, I finally got a clue. I accepted the positive comments & divided the “negative comments into 2 sections: lessons & things out of my control (room temperature, etc). Lessons gave me valuable insight on ways to adjust my teaching so it was easier for more students to be successful. Things out of my control needed to be out of my mind.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      GREAT way to look at it, Therese! Looking for the lesson is a great practice – for life in general.

  16. liz@lifedreaming

    Well done Nikki

    Grace under fire is a lovely dance and you did it beautifully.

    We can learn, laugh and just get on with our lives – regardless of comments.

    Have a wonderful day

    xx Liz

  17. Rachel

    Awesome post! Thanks for sharing and adding some humor to the whole topic. :-)

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Glad you liked it, Rachel! Oldie but a goodie to keep handy throughout the year ;)

  18. Amber

    Loved this post! So helpful and reassuring…love your perspective Nikki.


  19. Elizabeth Boardman

    LOVE this! Thank you, this is exactly what I needed to hear today. When I find that people are hating on me, I think the old trick of killin’ them with kindness always works best. Also, if I take some time to reflect, before taking offense I usually realize the world is not going to end.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      YES! The wait-24-hours-before-even-thinking-of-replying rule is a goodie ;)

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