Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts. It’s not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena whose face is marred by dust & sweat & blood who strives valiantly . . . & who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
8 years ago I made a drastic career change from radio advertising to the payments processing industry with Heartland Payment Systems. Like any career change I experienced a roller coaster of emotions. From anxious to nervous to excited.
My employer at the time was gracious enough to allow me the opportunity to visit my clients to let them know of my career change. My visits were going smoothly. Clients were happy for me and offered many good lucks. It wasn’t until I was to make one of my final visits that I would question my career move.
One of my final visits was to a jewelry store. I had a lot of respect for this client and his opinion mattered to me. I was also nervous to tell him because we had built a close relationship. As I began to tell him about my career change he reacted like my other clients, supportive. What surprised me was the response of his jeweler stone vendor who also was visiting that day.
When the jewelry stone vendor heard I was going into merchant card processing he turned around and said to me, “You won’t be successful at it. Its ultra competitive. You will face a ton of rejection. He took me by surprise with his tone. “You won’t be successful at it. My thoughts were, how can he say this. He didn’t know about Heartland or me! My only response was to defend my decision. He and I exchanged our thoughts like a volley in a tennis game. He would say something critical and I would hit a volley back to him. He would hit it back stronger and by the end of our conversation all I can say he and I weren’t fans of each other. Good thing my client stepped in and refereed.
In been 8 years since that conversation and I am still at Heartland (the best career decision I have ever made) and I have learned a great deal about critics and criticism.
It doesn’t matter if you are in a leadership position or not I am sure that every one of us, at one time or another, has been the target of criticism. Sometimes the criticism is deserved. At other times we are convinced that the criticism is absolutely wrong or unfair.
Now the important question is, “How do we respond to criticism?” Especially, “How do we handle criticism that is destructive, & not constructive?”
That fateful day at my client all I heard was how I was not going to succeed. How did I respond to the critic? By defending my decision! Did I win a fan of my decision? 100% NO! Why? I didn’t respond correctly. Looking back I am sure that jewelry vendor was trying to look out for me. However, the facts are that I didn’t know what he knew and he didn’t know what I knew about Heartland and what Heartland represents. Unfortunately, at that time I didn’t take the time to listen or understand where he was coming from. So how could I expect him to hear me out.
Hopefully you can take something away from my mistakes and respond vs. reacting to criticism.
4 simple steps in handling criticism.
- Listen vs. Hearing- When you listen you are not on the defensive. You actually hear the other person out. Listen to listen vs. listening to attack back.
- Understand and appreciate where the other person is coming from.-Why do they feel they way they do?
- Restate their criticism and make sure you have a clear understanding of their criticism.
- Remember a gentle answer turns away wrath, but the harsh answer stirs up anger (a quote from one of my favorite books) – It’s our natural response to attack when we are attacked. The old phrase stick and bones may hurt our bones but words won’t ever hurt me is incorrect…Words can hurt and are not easily forgotten.
Teddy Roosevelt continued, “Far better it is to dare mighty things to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they lived in the great twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.
It takes a special person to keep picking up one stone after another & keep building the wall. Keep in mind anybody can be a critic.
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