Learning to Deal with Criticism

Learning to deal with criticism is a chance for you to grow personally and professionally
10 Mar

Learning to Deal with Criticism

There is no way of getting around this fact: the more you put out into the world, the more exposed you are going to be to the opinions of others. Creation comes at a cost.

This is especially true for food entrepreneurs. It seems like everyone these days is a food critic. Review websites are ubiquitous and nearly everyone is able to share their opinions, good or bad, with the world.

Unsurprisingly, the fear of criticism can prevent someone from ever creating anything meaningful. Being unable to deal with the inevitability of criticism keeps you exactly where you are, with no growth and no progression.

We all love security, comfort and being unchallenged. But unfortunately, we can’t stay at home in our pyjamas and laze about all day, every day. At some point, we need to leave the house, go to work and hope to excel at something worthwhile.


dinner party

You get immediate feedback with food. And sometimes you might have to deal with criticism from customers.


Dealing with Criticism

We can all recall a time when our work was judged by others. How did it feel when you were exposed to criticism or received a negative comment?

Most of us concentrate on the negative feedback and ignore the positive. We all know what it feels like to feel winded, hurt or angry by a negative comment. Is that uncomfortable feeling something we hold onto? Or is there a way to deal with it?

Seeing criticism as an opportunity for growth, rather than a personal attack, is a key part of becoming a better business owner. Here’s how:

  1. Listen carefully to criticism and who it comes from. Pivot and adapt with thought to criticism that is constructive and useful. See each piece of feedback as a chance to grow and progress. If there is room for improvement, take immediate action.
  2. Recognise and accept criticism as the price you pay for public creation.
  3. Recognise and accept that you can’t please everyone.
  4. Keep a log of positive comments and feedback. Read this back when you are feeling a little lost and exposed to criticism.
  5. Always keep learning and improving. When all is going well, we tend to rest on our laurels. But there is always more to learn, more to experience, and more ways to grow.
  6. Be mindful when you express your opinion of others’ work. Think carefully whether your criticism comes from a good place and put yourself in the shoes of the person you are critiquing.


What goes on Behind the Scenes

What each business puts out there into the public sphere is only a tiny fraction of the work that goes on unnoticed and unpublicised behind closed doors. For every shiny Instagram photo posted, there are several others that don’t make the cut.

Most people don’t recognise the hard work and energy needed to start a business. And in this territory, fear lives.

When I started 4Lunch, every day was a battle to convert my fear into energy in order to ‘put myself out there’.

Something as seemingly easy as sending emails or cold calling was part of the struggle. But once you try something scary for the first time, you tend to want to do it again, to improve and get better. Learning to deal with criticism is like building a mental muscle necessary for starting a business.

Many people shield themselves away from discomfort and uncertainty, avoiding it like the plague, haunted by past embarrassments, failures and criticism from others. In this case, fear is not energising. Instead, it’s paralysing and crushing.

Avoid this paralysis by doing your best to open yourself up to risk, criticism, rejection, disappointment, embarrassment and bullshit, and accepting this as part of the character building journey of entrepreneurship. It probably won’t kill you, and you will learn a hell of a lot about yourself and your tendancies.

It’s emotionally draining at first, but the more you expose yourself to this kind of discomfort, the easier it becomes to handle, and the more opportunities and experiences you are likely to have.


dealing with criticism

As a caterer, you need to keep moving and making changes to menus in response to customer preferences and comments. Don’t be afraid to start again to improve your offer.


The Price of Success

Success is never handed on a plate, although you’d be forgiven for thinking so by looking at social media. Feelings of discomfort and fear play a significant part in all the things worth doing in life. And every business is potentially a diamond in the rough. But it is up to you how much you want to expose yourself to the necessary cutting and polishing needed to transform your initial ideas into a financially sustainable, successful business.