Every once in a while I receive an email from a reader/podcast listener that goes a little something like:
I made a change to my [UX/UI/positioning/pricing/terms] and it seemed to go well. But out of my 900 customers, 3 wrote in with scathing emails (1 even raged at me on Twitter).
It had a huge impact on me, and affected my mindset for the next day and a half. How can I handle this kind of situation better so it doesn’t derail me next time?– Person who’s trying to do the right thing
In this example I’ve chosen to call out making a change to a software product, but this post covers anything you receive negative feedback about: a blog post, a comment on Twitter, or a job description someone decides isn’t to their liking.
I believe that more than half of what it takes to be a successful founder is managing your own psychology.
It’s knowing enough about yourself that you’re able to avoid wallowing in stress and destroying your productivity by turning speed bumps into roadblocks.
Here are a few coping strategies I’ve developed over the years for dealing with public criticism (many with the guidance of my founder whisperer spouse):
#1: Try not to take it personally
This is easier said than done, but the first thing I try to do when I receive angry or critical feedback is step back and say:
This person doesn’t know me. They don’t know the level of thought that went into this change. They’re just typing things because they’re flippant and impulsive.
They wouldn’t say this to my face, at a conference or at a cocktail party. It’s not personal.– Me, trying not to take it personally
#2: Don’t ruminate
Don’t create a vicious cycle by stressing about this constantly for hours or days. Honestly, it’s not as big of a deal as it feels right now.
#3: Get a sanity check
If you’re in a mastermind group, this is something to bring to your next call (or reach out to folks individually as it’s happening).
When you share experiences like this, and someone else says that it also happened to them, just a few weeks ago, it gives you a sense that you’re not alone. That camaraderie can normalize the experience.
#4: Know that this is pretty much inevitable
It sucks, but it happens to all of us. If you’re putting anything interesting out into the world, you’re going to have people get mad about something at some point.
This is par for the course if you are doing interesting things in public.
#5: Don’t send flippant responses
Boomerang or snooze those emails/Tweets for a day to give yourself time to think about it. I have never once sent a hurried/outraged/flippant response that I was happy about the next day.
#6: Just because someone is mad, doesn’t mean you did something wrong
Depending on your personality, this can be hard to remember.
If this is more than an isolated complaint – such as a public outcry from dozens of people – it’s time to consider whether you dropped the ball on this one. And consider what steps you can take to make things right.
On the flip side, there are people who spend the majority of their days being outraged. Today may just be their day to be outraged at you.
This post is an expansion on ideas I discussed in a podcast episode earlier this year. Thanks to Justin Jackson for encouraging me to take those ideas and put pen to paper.