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Five Inappropriate Ways to Respond to Criticism

By: Guest | March 8, 2012 | 
78

Today’s guest post is written by Margie Clayman.

A large part of marketing, PR, and online communication rests upon how you respond to criticism.

Some respond to criticism with grace, understanding, and a desire to improve, or at least a desire to see the world from someone’s perspective other than their own.

Others, however, respond to criticism in ways that makes them look really, really bad.

The ramifications of these silly mistakes can be extensive and far-reaching.

I’ve pulled some parallel reactions from fictional characters to illustrate my point.

  1. “Last I checked, Theoden, not Aragorn, was King of Rohan.” ~ King Theoden Some people respond to criticism (constructive though it may be) in a fashion akin to this king. In non-Tolkienesque language, one might say, “This is my house, yo.” This really doesn’t have a positive effect on spectators of the conversation. Chest pumping is something you often see on nature shows about chimpanzees. Surely we can do better?
  2. “Or did you think I wouldn’t know what a Eugoogaly was?” ~Zoolander Zoolander is trying to say the word “Eulogy” but of course he doesn’t REALLY know what the word means. Sometimes, in response to criticism, people will attempt to make a come-back only to reveal further they really don’t know what they’re talking about. This can convince people who previously thought well of you that maybe they chose the wrong team.
  3. **Blows up person who questioned him** “Never talk to me like that again! ~Evil,  from “Time Bandits” Talk about an ineffective way to respond to criticism. Of course, in the real world pointing at someone and having them blow up does not really happen (as far as I’m aware), but there are ways to have a similar impact. Unfollowing someone on a social network, beginning to troll someone’s Facebook wall, or spreading rumors about your critic are all great ways to make them feel like you are blowing them up. You don’t want to act the same way EVIL does, do you?
  4. “I know you are but what am I?” ~Pee Wee Herman Believe it or not, I’ve seen exchanges literally at this level of maturity in the professional world. Shocking, isn’t it? One person offers criticism and says something like, “Maybe you are just inexperienced in this.” The recipient of this comment then responds with something like, “No, I think you’re really inexperienced.” I’m all for a good playground fight but, well, that’s so 30 years ago.
  5. “Run Away! Run away!” ~Monty Python’s “Knights of the Round TableOK, the knights are not really being criticized, but rather they are having farm animals thrown in their general direction. Still, running away is a common reaction to criticism. Some organizations will delete critical comments from their blog or Facebook page, for example. Others will simply not respond and just let the criticism sit there. These are the worst possible things you can do in the world of communications.

These are the most common, most inappropriate responses to criticism I see in the professional world, particularly in the online world. What would you add to this list?

Margie Clayman is the director of client development at Clayman Advertising, Inc., her family’s full-service marketing firm. Margie is the third generation of her family to work there! Margie blogs at www.margieclayman.com. You can follow her on Twitter @margieclayman.

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78 responses to “Five Inappropriate Ways to Respond to Criticism”

  1. davevandewalle says:

    I AM WEARING A SHIRT THAT SAYS “I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I?” RIGHT NOW.

  2. joshduv says:

    @margieclayman Great post!!

  3. solete says:

    Your post got me thinking about how to best handle criticism. Came across this video of how author Brad Meltzer dealt his bad book reviews. Pretty funny. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svvoh66s2F0

  4. MargieClayman says:

    @TomPick thanks Tom! 🙂

  5. Number 2 just made me laugh because I LOVE that movie. 🙂 
     
    I have seen number 3 more often than the others (though the others do appear pretty often), and it blows me away that they could think that’s a good idea.
     
    I can understand being sensitive to criticism, especially when it’s about something you have put your sweat and tears into, I have been sensitive a few times before. But then I realized, that person is saying those things for a reason; it can’t be all about what *I* think. If I’m going to be in the business of helping, then I need to learn how to use that criticism to my advantage. 
     
    Good article. 🙂

  6. Krista says:

    Wow, you must seriously have been in my head because I have been dealing with a colleague who does not respond well to feedback– constructive or otherwise! This particular person probably falls into the first category of terrioriality and defense of the status quo. I think I’ll probably giggle to myself next time I hear them react to some feedback or new ideas because I’ll be thinking of the Lord of the Rings!

    • margieclayman says:

       @Krista I was. I only write guest posts when I’ve invaded the brains of several in the site’s audience. Is that wrong? 🙂

  7. TheJackB says:

    Poor Theoden, man gets hornswoggled for years by Grima and Saruman- finally comes back and gets his butt handed to him while Aragorn gets to wield the sword that was broken and a crown.
     
    Not to mention a beautiful elf wife and the eternal gratitude of middle earth. That is the sort of comeback we all want, now isn’t it. 
     
    Damn, you have my fantasy and sci fi blood boiling now, want to rail on about how George Lucas tried to rape my childhood and why Twilight should be destroyed and never mentioned again.
     
    But I’ll do better and wrap myself in my Harry Potter cloak of invisibility and pretend that no one can hear or see me. Oh, didn’t you mention that as being one of the problems.
     
    I think we are dealing with a time when we have made it popular to pound our chests and win arguments by screaming or being more outrageous than the next person.

  8. Taking your stripes and being criticized is hard enough when it’s in private, let alone publicly. Digital communications and social has an amplifying effect on personalities – and that’s not always a good thing. 😉 

  9. MargieClayman says:

    @jasonkonopinski thank ya!

  10. KenMueller says:

    Great examples, Margie, and anyone who quotes Tolkien and Monty Python gets mad props from me, yo.

  11. Anyone who works in a Time Bandits reference is my kinda woman, Margie!
     
    I can turn left!
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLRqyV7Wn04

    • margieclayman says:

       @Sean McGinnis haha 🙂 I…I’m sure there are lots of people…I mean, there have to be… other people who can’t turn…who can’t turn left. 

      •  @margieclayman OMG I have Time Bandits memorized, and I thought I was all by myself in a geeky little corner.  “You haven’t had a good idea for thousands of years….!”

  12. dizzycatdesign says:

    @ginidietrich @margieclayman Great article! Worth a RT 🙂

  13. Hi Margie,
     
    Whether you’re offering up a wee bit of constructive criticism or not, I guess the more “popular” you become online, the more you have to deal with Middle Earth Crag Dwellers, huh?
     
    This post reminded me of all the splattered humans in the movie, “District 9” 
     
    That alien assault rifle sent out an electric arc that obliterated many. Blew them to teeny, tiny bits and pieces.

    • margieclayman says:

       @Craig McBreen Craig dwellers. Haha 🙂 
       
      Yeah, people definitely have their lasers set to kill, not stun, in the online world. It’s a shame. Then again, other people put their shields up unnecessarily and get super duper defensive for no good reason.
       
      Most people are imperfect. We just gotta live with it, us perfect people….

  14. MargieClayman says:

    @CraigMcBreen thanks Craig!

  15. MargieClayman says:

    @AmyMccTobin thanks Ms. Amy!!

  16. MargieClayman says:

    @shonali thanks 🙂

  17. MargieClayman says:

    @Tribe2point0 thanks lady!

  18. ginidietrich says:

    @WhitneyPunchak I miss you!

  19. Haha – love it – very clever.  My knowledge of film quotes is not good enough to compete (my brain’s memory function for remembering quotes or song lyrics is the size of The Mouse named Mickey’s) – but if I was to compliment in movie quotes – maybe I could ask Yoda to asnwer for me – 
     
    entertaining and clever, this blog is

    • margieclayman says:

       @Nic_Cartwright Talking Yoda is always fine with me!! Thanks for stopping by and I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂 

  20. ginidietrich says:

    You already know I love this. It’s this kind of writing that drew me to you in the first place, many eons ago. Your writing talent combined with this kind of knowledge is really incredible to me!

  21. KDillabough says:

    @TomRedwine @ginidietrich Thanks Tom:) Have a fabulous weekend.

  22. I am always amazed to see reaction to criticism via targeting online – going after the critic with unabashed meanness. I always remind people to stop and think:
     
    Acknowledge the criticism as soon as possible (not react right away, but acknowledge)
     
    What caused the criticism?
     
    Did you see it coming?
     
    What else is going on in that person’s (the critic) life? (elementary I know, but I try to understand as much as I can about the person before reacting).  
     
    I like to say people are always doing the best they can at any given point.  Give the benefit of the doubt – no matter how wretched the criticism, something caused that person to make it. 
     
    Movies? The Queen.  Where Helen Mirren as The Queen is deeply effected by criticism of her seemingly cold reaction to Princess Diana’s death.  And her subsequent adjustment. 
     

  23. I am always amazed to see reaction to criticism via targeting online – going after the critic with unabashed meanness. I always remind people to stop and think:
     
    Acknowledge the criticism as soon as possible (not react right away, but acknowledge)
     
    What caused the criticism?
     
    Did you see it coming?
     
    What else is going on in that person’s (the critic) life? (elementary I know, but I try to understand as much as I can about the person before reacting).  
     
    I like to say people are always doing the best they can at any given point.  Give the benefit of the doubt – no matter how wretched the criticism, something caused that person to make it. 
     
    Movies? The Queen.  Where Helen Mirren as The Queen is deeply affected by criticism of her seemingly cold reaction to Princess Diana’s death.  And her subsequent adjustment. 
     

  24. MargieClayman says:

    @kristakotrla thanks so much for the tweet & kind words 🙂

  25. belllindsay says:

    Love IT!! And I bow in your general direction. Jesus. Python *and* PeeWee in one post..!!?? I’m in awe. Very creative and funny @MargieClayman  – as you are as well. 🙂 

  26. MargieClayman says:

    @marktzk thanks for the tweet 🙂

  27. 3HatsComm says:

    These are all good.. but I gotta single out #5 – and shake my head at those clients who won’t listen, don’t want to take the time (and money) to learn about this, why ignoring/deleting some valid criticism is the wrong move. Sigh. Part to of that is “Why you stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder!” – and the response that ignores all the (possibly valid) criticism to focus on appearances: “Who’s scruffy looking?” Hee.
     
    And for #4 the playground taunts – the constant one-up of “no you didn’t” “YES I did” fits. One of the worst ways to respond to criticism or engage in debate is to not let go; often made harder when others refuse to do the same. Gotta know when it’s best to walk away. Very, very creative – another idea to put in my ‘to steal someday’ pile. FWIW.
     
     

  28. […] but Dietrich is very witty in her posts and conversational. She is all about the lists, such as, “Five Inappropriate Ways to Respond to Criticism” which is written by a ‘guest blogger’ and “Five Ways to Measure Social Media […]

  29. MargieClayman says:

    @karlsprague geeze dood. You got a lot into that tweet. Well done! And thanks 🙂

    • karlsprague says:

      @MargieClayman When two of my favorite people in the Twittersphere team up & you include LOTR, you’re pressing the right buttons.:)

      • MargieClayman says:

        @karlsprague aww, thanks!!! 🙂 I include LOTR as much as possible. It’s becoming a problem, actually. *Gollum gollum*

        • karlsprague says:

          @MargieClayman Now that’s funny. A little spooky…gollum … but funny. Hoping you put on your mithril to go conquer the world today.

  30. MargieClayman says:

    @ThePaulSutton thanks Paul!

  31. MargieClayman says:

    @3HatsComm thanks Ms. Davina! Nice to see you today! 🙂

  32. MargieClayman says:

    @sandrulee thanks Sandra!

  33. NancyCawleyJean says:

    What a great post, Margie! Some criticism is easier to take than others…and some people know how to offer it constructively! But we all make choices every day, and we have to live with the repercussions of those choices — the world of social media doesn’t leave much room to hide! My rule of thumb is to take a deep breath and not respond right away, and that helps to prepare a more appropriate response than I might like to give at first!

  34. MargieClayman says:

    @NancyCawleyJean thanks 🙂

  35. MargieClayman says:

    thanks guys! @pablober @Steveology

  36. […] Five Inappropriate Ways to Respond to Criticism by Margie Clayman (March 8) […]

  37. […] I have to deliver bad news or constructive criticism I always use poise and […]

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