How to build immunity to criticism

by Jason on November 30, 2011 · 2 comments

Angry @ The Terrorists (detail) by Gregg O'Connell

“Is it possible we are defined by our enemies and out willingness and ability to create and annoy them?”

That’s a quote by Dan Kennedy from his latest newsletter, which came at a great time, that time being the day I was going to write this post.  It (and the article it’s from) perfectly complements my thinking on this matter.

If you’re going to be successful, you’re going to have critics (or enemies, as Dan says.)  Put another way, criticism can actually be a signal that you’re on the right path (or not; more on that later.)

But it royally sucks to get called out, especially online, where the cost for someone to call you names is basically free, minus their time, which would otherwise be spent looking for cat pictures.  And the key to all of this is remembering exactly that: it cost that person nothing to complain about you, and you should take the comment at exactly that value.

So here’s the vaccination.  You can do either of these or both, and there may be similar techniques you can use, but this is what I know from personal experience:

Post YouTube videos on a subject people don’t agree with.  This is almost too easy, once you remember that the average YouTube commenter is, well, read this.  I’ve got maybe 100 videos out there, 2-8 minutes in length (don’t bother looking if you don’t know me, they’re from earlier projects mostly and not tied to my name) and a few have attracted some… attention.

Best. Training. Ever.

I can’t tell you how hard it was to ignore the first few.  Actually, I can, it was impossible.  And I replied.  And then a reply to that came back in (of course) all of two minutes.  And I felt myself getting dragged into an argument that had no real point, no real outcome, but dammit if they weren’t wrong.

So I let it go.  And the world didn’t end.  And more comments came in (people smelled weakness, maybe, and felt like they could get a shot in without repercussion.)  And I let those go, reluctantly.  And it got easier.  And the comments became funnier, to me, even though they were getting nastier and nastier.

So that’s method #1.  It takes some work, unless you somehow knock it out of the park on your first or second video (I’d guess maybe 5% of mine got attacked.)

Method 2 is to run an email newsletter.  Doesn’t matter what the topic is.  But when you do, use something like Aweber (affiliate link) where you can set it so that when people unsubscribe, you get anotification.  Because that notification will also include the reason for the unsubscribe, as entered by the user. Which sometimes will be kind, like “no time right now,” but often will be most unkind.

Oh, and be sure to set it up so people can hit reply to the mailing to reach you.  I swear, this arrived last week after I wished the people on my list from the USA a happy Thanksgiving: “Thanksgiving is evil and so are you.”

Oddly, that person stayed a subscriber.  I fixed that for him.  Cheerfully.  Because really, who cares about guys like that?

Criticism is going to happen to you in your life, and the more of a profile you have, the more you’re going to get.  As Dan Kennedy suggested at the beginning of this post, it might actually be a key ingredient to success.  So get used to it, get immune to it, and go forth.

Now, the other side of the trick is figuring out what criticism should be ignored and what’s actually valid.  Are you, in fact, being an ass?  I rely on friends and most especially family for that feedback.  Looking myself in the mirror isn’t so hard, but if looking them in the eyes is a challenge then I know all I need to know.

Photo by greggoconnell

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel September 24, 2013 at 4:01 am

Loved this, such a refreshing take on how to deal with criticism. i know your frustration with Youtube comments all too well. It really is a losing battle. I’ve got some horrendous footage of me in some corporate videos and I daren’t read the comments lest I’m driven to fly under my bedcovers and never emerge again 😛

Elizabeth February 27, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Thanks for the awesome reframe for how to deal with criticism. I loved your link to the cartoon about youtube commenters.

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