The other day, I was sitting in FABO Cafe, talking to the owner of the cute little coffee shop that just opened in the Fall. Amy, a former consultant, has risked everything to open this shop – she gave up her job and invested a ton of her personal worth into the business. Amy and I were chatting about how difficult it is to be a small business owner because it seems like sometimes people only focus on the bad and not the good, even if the good is overwhelming. I could relate to Amy because of the Husband’s small business.
The Husband has a business mantra that he repeats all the time: “A negative referral has ten times the impact of a positive referral.” When people find something to complain about, they complain loudly. Rarely do they sing praises quite as loud. It’s easy to walk into a business and find all these things that suck about it – maybe the food is a little cold, the receipt won’t print out, or the lighting in the bathroom is out – without thinking about the intense personal investment behind it.
I’ve been reflecting over the last year because tomorrow is my 27th birthday. Year 26 was a big year for me; most notably, I published my first book. Talk about opening yourself up to criticism! As a writer, I can think of nothing more difficult that having other people read your work. I know that sounds funny because I write for the public every day, but there was something so scary about people reading and ranking my first book, and I know that I’ll feel the way about my second and third books.
I imagine the way I feel about people reading my books is the way Amy feels every time she opens the door at FABO or the way the Husband feels whenever a patient steps through the door. We all know that people’s first reaction is to look for the bad, not the good, and that makes putting ourselves out there hard.
Don’t get me wrong – I am all for constructive criticism. I believe that, by truly listening to constructive criticism, you can shape your project into something outrageously wonderful. Did you know that my book was rejected by a dozen publishers before it was fought over by two? Watching my work get rejected over and over again was hard, but it made the final book stronger AND it prepared me to handle rejection in the future.
For the last month or so, whenever I walk into a shop or open a book or read a blog or try a product, I make myself think about the person behind it. It’s not just a shop, book, blog, or product – it’s someone’s dream. It’s someone’s time, sweat, tears, relationships, and hopes. There is a person behind everything we experience and critique.
Now that I’ve fully realized this, my criticisms has become so tempered! I’m trying to focus on being proactively kind whenever I walk into a store or open a book. I make an effort to search for the positive in a way that I might have searched for a negative before. And when I do have a compliant, I’m trying to first list all of the positive qualities that I noticed.
Making the effort to be proactively kind when I might’ve otherwise criticized is really adding to my overall positive outlook, too – so it’s a win/win! I find that now I don’t get as grumpy when small things go wrong at a business. This attitude also made me feel more grateful and appreciative, which I think is really important. I don’t want to charge through life like a cannonball, destroying small bits of everything I come across without even stopping to think about what I’m really damaging – another person.
Do you have a job that opens you up to criticism from your coworkers or the public? What are your thoughts on criticism, rejection, and being proactively kind?