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Five Inappropriate Ways to Respond to Criticism

By: Guest | March 8, 2012 | 
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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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