How to Handle Criticism – tips for fashion entrepreneurs

“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain – and most fools do.” -Dale Carnegie

how to handle criticism of your clothing line

You’re angry. You’re hurt. You’re embarrassed, even humiliated. Someone has done you wrong – by criticizing you in a hurtful way.

There’s a difference between someone offering constructive criticism – such as how to improve your business or your product – and someone talking trash about you.

Here’s some advice form the Fashion Brain School of Hard Knocks:

Make a distinction between Feedback and Insult

It’s possible that people are not actually criticizing you, they just disagree with you.

In many ways, we are conditioned to think we’re right, so we treat feedback as criticism. I remember pitching a new idea to another consultant – one I like and trust – and she pointed out all the potential problems with my genius idea. I got defensive and rushed to get off the phone with her. It took me a while to realize she was sincerely trying to help but I was to pig-headed to notice.

Consider the Source

Who is criticizing you? What’s going on in his or her life that makes them so critical? There are just some people who are full of negativity and can’t find good in anything. What’s hard to deal with is when you see others are actually listening and maybe even believing the negative person. You just have to trust that anyone “normal” will figure out what Miss Negative’s all about soon enough and take what she says with a grain of salt.

Success = Criticism

I read this one time and found it to be a rather sad statement, however true. When you have a measure of success, or perceived success, people get jealous. Many people have doubt in their ability to do something BIG, and if they see you doing it, that stings. Then they strike back by taking a pot-shot at you so they feel a little better.

Your Mother Was Right

I remember in 3rd grade when I came home from school crying because Nora (yes, I remember her name) said something nasty about me. I was inconsolable. She was a really popular blonde girl, Mom, and my best friend! My Mom looked me in the eye and said, “She’s jealous of you.” While Mom had a hard time convincing my 9 year-old self of that, I see it clearly now. Criticizing others is a classic way to make you feel better.

This is MY Territory

When your competition is critical, it hurts. The reality is that you are a threat to others with your success. They are worried about their business, and too many times they look to how you could hurt them rather than potential ways you could collaborate and SHARE some customers. Their criticism comes from a place of fear and all you can really do is ignore it and do NOT strike back, no matter how badly you want to. It will only make you look bad and unprofessional, I promise.

What if it’s True?

When someone criticizes us, it points out our own insecurities. If you secretly agree that you’re not really all that talented, or whatever the topic of the criticism is, you want to take a look at that. Get to the root of why the criticism bothers you so much. Why do you maybe, sort of, kinda agree with your naysayer? What can you do about it? Find a way to take what’s useful to improve yourself and your business, leave the rest alone, and keep going.

3 Practical Takeaways From Today’s Article

1) Let it Go: You can listen to what “people” say or you can keep your sanity. It’s your choice. Don’t to consider the source. Forgiveness is hard. But staying angry has devastating side effects. I love this quote from Buddha:

“Holding on to your anger is like gripping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else: you are the one that gets burned.”

2) Write a letter. One good way to accomplish “Let it Go” is to write a letter to the “offender”. I mean get it all out – slap down on the truth and the injustice you have been subjected to! Then rip that letter up and take a deep breath. It just feels good to tell your side – in actual black and white – and have your voice heard, albeit in your own head.  Begin the letter with, “I’d like to tell my perspective…” I’m serious, though, do NOT mail that letter. And did you notice I say a letter and not an email? That’s because an email is too easy to send. Don’t do it. No good can come from a confrontation.

3) The best way to avoid criticism is to stay home with the phone off, write no emails, stay off social media, be silent, travel nowhere, make no friends, make no decisions, take no action, and have no business. That’s not likely to happen. So just remember, if you’re in the game, really IN it, there will be criticism.  It helps to be mentally prepared for the negative feedback, however, so when it happens you don’t let it affect you or slow you down.  As Paul Newman said, “If you have no enemies, you don’t have character”.   Wouldn’t you rather have character and take the heat?

So what do YOU think?

Now I’d love to hear your take on this topic. Have you been hurt by criticism and how did you handle it? Did it spur you on or paralyze you for a it? Do you have any strategies to share?

Be specific and share your best stories, advice, and experience in the comments below!

Thanks in advance for contributing to the conversation.

Jane Hamill

“Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” ~Aristotle



2 Responses

  1. The letter strategy works. It’s my favorite way to get my emotions out, and no one (friends, enemies, and criticizers alike) has to know I might have had a less than graceful moment.

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