You Are Not Your F*cking Khaki Pants – How to Deal With Criticism
Sometimes friendly people on the internet offer critiques and helpful hints about your content. These critiques skew less towards the encouragement of a GI Joe style “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle” and more towards Tuco from Breaking Bad punches you to death because he dislikes the tone of your voice. The internet allows people to be jerks without coming face to face with anyone– in fact Perez Hilton made a career out of it. If you are going to put content out there, prepare for the onslaught of criticism. However, in this article I argue that this criticism is not a bad thing; in fact it is a very good thing. Learning to deal with criticism and use it will help you become both a better content writer ,as well as a better person. Here are three lessons (in order of importance ) with how to deal with the onslaught of internet criticism:
Lesson 1: You Are Not Your Content
In the great Chuck Palahniuk novel Fight Club the main character comes to a realization that he is himself as a man – not his job, not how much money he has in the bank, not the car he drives, and he is NOT HIS F*CKING KHAKIS. This concept provides a valuable lens to look at the criticism of your content. You are not your content. If you take nothing else from the article, please remember that. When people/trolls critique your content they are doing just that – critiquing your content. Do not take it personally, even when it gets personal. If the critique is that you are a bad writer, what they are actually saying is that they dislike the piece you wrote. If they say you are stupid, what they are saying is they disagree with a point in the article and are unable/unwilling to express it in another way. If you can look at the critiques as discussions about your pieces, rather than actual critiques of you as a human being, than you will begin to be able to use the critiques to your advantage.
2. Find the Golden Nuggets in the Critiques
Once you realize that you are not your content, you are able to separate the emotional charge, and able to learn to sift to find the golden nuggets in the criticism. Here is an example – I used to have a radio show and much like the internet, this was a fertile ground for criticism. A gentleman once wrote to me, “Adam, you are not funny, have an annoying voice and your sound sucks on your interviews”. By recognizing that he was critiquing my content and not me as a person I was able to sift for the golden nuggets:
- “You are not funny” – Perhaps he is right, but there is not too much I can do about this. I find myself to be hilarious, just ask my girlfriend.
- “Your voice is annoying” Another point where there is not too much I can do about. I am not going to be one of those total chodes who does a fake radio voice and sounds like Rick Dees.
- Your sound sucks on interviews – This was my Golden Nugget! He was right on this one and I had not thought about. The station was sending me out basically with a Talkboy. I used this opportunity to purchase a digital recorder and improve the sound on my interviews. I still may not have been funny to this gentleman, but now I was not funny with crystal clear audio.
Take the time to look through the mean comments and see if there is anything you can pull out to make you better, if there is use it – if not don’t worry about it.
3. Use your critics
There is some form of Karate that uses one’s opponent’s own weight and momentum against them – I think it is Judo. Assuming it is Judo, this is how you should use your critics. If they are going to mention your content, than use them as amplifiers to create interest. Have an interesting debate on twitter or your blog. Each post and each tweet creates interest and excitement in your blog, and this is a great thing. Taking a stand against your critics also creates an “us vs. them” mentality where people will step up to support you. These supporters will amplify your message and guess what – so will your haters. Howard Stern is a master of using haters to amplify his message. He uses what I call the “hater cycle”:
- He says something controversial
- This makes people angry who call into his show (where they contribute to his ratings)
- People call in to defend Howard
- The angry people take to the media to get Howard to apologize, this creates interest which raises his ratings
- These media outlets have people who defend Howard which raise his ratings
I am not suggesting you emulate or become a shock jock. What I am suggesting is to tap into the hater cycle. If someone is being a hater, do not take it off your blog. Engage them, let your supporters contribute, and let the debate drive additional traffic to your site.
Adam Lundquist is chief nerd of Nerds Do It Better – he used to cry under a tree when his mom dropped him off at preschool. You can connect with him on Google Plus