A Lesson In Handling Criticism

Today I received a piece of criticism that I saw as a golden opportunity for a lesson in handling criticism. (This very advice will be invaluable to you in the future!)

As you grow your business online and gain more exposure, it is inevitable that you will receive criticism at some point. Instead of changing directions, feeling horribly, or letting it stop you I’d like to offer an alternative.

The Email

Yesterday, I sent this email to my email subscriber list:

(Name), YOU are an incredible human being with a big heart to help others…now how great is that?!

I say this to you because you maybe haven’t heard that in a while – I mean really heard how great you are.

And you need that. You need to know that and believe it.

You’re a busy person taking care of business, lifting others up – you have the best intentions. This can also lead to a loneliness or a feeling of not being seen.

I see you.

When someone chooses to join my email list I take it as a real honor. I look up their website and social media profiles, then, I circle back around to check their progress and see what’s new in their world. Time consuming? Yes. But you know what, I dig it. I love the community feel and staying connected.

So don’t ever feel alone or like no one is paying attention.

I am and I want to give you some renewed energy today. Take a moment to feel how great you are and keep on truckin’ – it’s important you keep believing in your progress!

To your success,

Amber Ludwig-Vilhauer
Developing Authentic Leaders

The Feedback

Nice email Amber – you write incredibly well! Your heart bleeds through into everything… and I think it is indeed special that it does! You are one of the most AUTHENTIC people I have ever met and I feel HONORED to have had the opportunity to meet you and work with you!!

Great timing Ms. Ball of Fire. This message from you was very well timed. I honestly believe your reach out and connection. You are the real deal, and I’ve been online long enough to spot the difference. So thanks for your serendipitous thoughts. I needed to see that to pause, breathe, keep calm but build momentum to plan on. Appreciate your “Pocket of Sunshine” – I’ve got “work” to do.

Hey, Amber! Thanks for this message this morning! I needed it! hugs.

The Criticism

Amber, I regret that this is the first communication you will have received from me, but after receiving your message, I felt compelled to ask, does this kind of … I don’t even know what the right word is here… Marketing? Cheerleading? Work for most people? Really? I understand that your intentions are good, and I appreciate that, but I must tell you that this message positively drips with sappy, contrived, and canned rah-rah that bears no semblance of sincerity or relevance. How could you possibly know how great I am? You’ve never met me. As I read your email, the only thoughts that went through my head were “really??” And “what a load of canned crap!” I tell you this not to be cruel or impolite, but as brutally honest, sincere feedback. Your message comes across like that of an overenthusiastic and unseasoned life coach or self help guru. It did nothing to boost my self confidence, but rather made me regret wasting the 30 seconds I spent reading it. You might want to dial down the pep a notch or two in order to be seen as credible.

My Response

Hi (Name) and thanks so much for reaching out. I apologize about the delay – I’ve been on back-to-back client calls all morning. 🙂

I can appreciate your candor and asking if my form of communication/cheerleading works. I think there is a great lesson in this experience and I hope it serves you well to see what I’ve learned about business.

When I sat down to write yesterday’s email I spent a good 30-45 minutes writing that 15-sentence or so opening message. I got right into the heart and mind of my ideal client. That client feels exactly what I wrote about … giving to others, striving daily, doesn’t feel seen sometimes.

Not all of my messages are like that, but some certainly are because that’s what my ideal client is thinking and I want to serve them the best way I can.

The response to that message was incredible. So many people replied saying that was exactly what they needed, thanking me. Just one person wrote:
“Nice email Amber – you write incredibly well! Your heart bleeds through into everything… and I think it is indeed special that it does! You are one of the most AUTHENTIC people I have ever met and I feel HONORED to have had the opportunity to meet you and work with you!!”

Now I show you that to set up my point.

When we try to generalize our messaging or try to please everyone, our message can get muddled which draws a crowd of all sorts of different types of clients. I found that there were some clients I loved working with and others that weren’t as rewarding.

Only when I got crystal clear on who I want to serve, and stopped trying to appeal to the masses, did I attract more and more of my perfect client I love working with. By honing in on the character, feelings and needs of my ideal client I weed out the people that aren’t a great fit for my work and then I am more fulfilled (and so is the prospect that moved on and looked elsewhere for support).

As I mentioned in my email, when someone joins my network I do look into their website, social media etc to get a feel for them (this also helps me serve better because I can see what products or services might be most helpful based on where they are at in building their online platform). You strike me as a woman who really shows up for her family, you aim for a great result in your work and you also are a stickler for quality. You probably like getting to the point and appreciate when people offer you exactly what you need or want.

If you feel I can offer you support in the areas you need support in (probably the parts about building a business online, marketing etc and far less of the schmaltzy stuff) then I’d love for you to stick around and let me help. If you feel this was a turn off then you’re welcome to unsubscribe and I would understand. I’m here to offer real value, and if you can get value out of what I do, it’s there for the taking!

I think this was such a great email and experience that I plan to use a piece of it (of course I would not use your name) as the base of a blog post that I’ll tell my network about. As you get more exposure you are bound to get criticism and the key is in how you handle it. I know my ideal client would get a lot out of this exchange so I appreciate you opening the opportunity for it. 🙂

With gratitude,

Amber Ludwig-Vilhauer

The Lesson

If criticism, or less-than-positive feedback, comes your way you have a choice. You can feel insecure, embarrassed, exposed, hurt, angry … you can react and send a nasty reply in defense … you can change your message to please people … you can do nothing and quietly suffer …

There is always a choice!

For me, I read the email or criticism very carefully. I put my ego aside.

I am really looking for anything that strikes me as true – something I can improve upon. Then I will absolutely learn and grow if I have found something in my process or personality that could use improving.

If I feel no truth in it, I try to put myself in that person’s shoes and see the situation from their perspective. I sometimes find that person may have felt people aren’t being authentic in their life, or people have ripped them off before – or whatever “may” be happening and I just triggered that by my action.

I will then write an honest and reasonable reply (which they may accept and appreciate or they may not – either way, it was my Truth and you can’t really argue with the Truth).

So when you come across something hurtful, know you have a choice to not let it stop you in your tracks and make you feel badly. It’s ok that people have their opinions (sure, I wish the majority of people were nicer in their approach lol, but it’s normal).

Just stay in your lane, trust your voice and keep pursuing your dreams. Don’t you EVER let anyone slow you down.

With love,

Amber

(PS) I’d love for you to leave a comment below and tell me your thoughts as you read through the dialogue, what came up for you, and if you agree/disagree. 🙂

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22 Comments on A Lesson In Handling Criticism

  1. Amber, I am so proud of you, your authenticity, and your intention to be who you really are. Your reply to the criticism was positive, uplifting and instructive.
    Thanks for the reminder that I cannot please everyone; I cannot offer services that will make everyone happy; but I can show up, with love in my heart, and with the intention to help others heal.
    Proud of your integrity,
    Wanda Bedinghaus

  2. Amber, thank you for this very useful lesson.

    I, for one, appreciated the email in question as it felt like a sincere and heartfelt message.

    The timing was perfect for me as well.

    Even though I have as yet not hired you for your services, your sincerity and expertise are among the reasons I have remained on your email list and attempt to read as many of your messages as possible.

    I am always on the lookout for opportunities to learn and grow.

    You consistently provide that.

    Thank you for being you!

  3. We live in a cynical world Amber and if someone hasn’t gotten to know you then I can see how they might react negatively. But as I’ve told you before, having interacted with you and gotten to know you allows me to know that you mean every blessed word! I didn’t reply to that email but I totally appreciated it! I have moments when I feel like I’ve been thrown on the trash heap because I’m of my age and now I’m trying to start a business. So, yes, I would love someone to tell me how great I am, especially when I’m not feeling very great. You’re way wise beyond your years Amber and I’m so very glad you crossed my path!

  4. Karen Pierce says:

    Wonderful message, Amber! I agree with Quay that when folks get to know you they know you think about everything before you do it. My experience of you is that you go 100% + with your energy and intentions to help clients-certainly this client.

    You’re so right that we have to have boundaries for who we want to serve, because the folks who help pull out our best and appreciate it, and eagerly work with it will send their friends who are just like them. We have to have clarity on who that client is.

    I plan to print this off and save it in my “Amber” file for future use. Just another example of the quality of person you are-authentic, open, grounded in your own truth.

    Thank you for everything, but most of all for being you–the wise beyond your years wonderful woman you ARE !

  5. Hi Amber, at first I was floored at the negative comment. Then, I realized that this person is not used to people being joyful, helpful and positive so it came off to her as not being genuine. Knowing you as I do, I know that your attitude IS genuine and that you do care about others – everyone! I understand only too well Einstein’s statement that the most important decision anyone makes is whether the universe is friendly or unfriendly. Having been born into and steeped in the ‘unfriendly’ malevolent version for 18 years of my life, I produced people and a life that proved that true. This is something this person needs to heal in herself; the belief that friendly and high energy positive people are just out to get her. YOU handled it with grace and as a learning experience. Know that your community loves you; the community that knows that when you tell them they are awesome understand that you mean it and aren’t just trying to get something out of them.♥

  6. Jeff K says:

    Hey Amber,

    Have you read Raving Fans (amazon link below)? We just started a book club at work and this was our first book. It’s essentially broken up into 3 lessons. 1. Know your vision. 2. Know your clients vision for your product. 3. Do it and add 1%.

    If you haven’t read it, you probably don’t need to as you seem to have mastered them. I only ask because your response essentially uses all 3 lessons in 1 email.

    I get where the criticism comes from. That style isn’t my cup of tea, yet you are one of the very few mailing lists that I am on. For those that I am, I am usually hitting unsubscribe if I get more than 1 or 2 emails a MONTH from them. Having worked with you for a little while I know that your email blast was you and it’s probably why I stay subscribed.

    Your response was spot on. You stated your case and acknowledged that maybe your style wasn’t compatible with all of your subscribers. “Only when I got crystal clear on who I want to serve, and stopped trying to appeal to the masses, did I attract more and more of my perfect client I love working with.” That should go on a billboard in every town. Some people / companies aren’t in a position to pick and choose, but once they get there your job is no longer just a job.

    Keep on doing what your doing!

    http://www.amazon.com/Raving-Fans-Revolutionary-Approach-Customer/dp/0688123163

  7. Judy says:

    Hey Amber!

    Well, for what it’s worth, I had the opposite reaction from Madame Critic. I found your message peppy, yes, but in a good way that is very different from the usual marketing crap that I get – from coaches I KNOW who in person don’t sound or come across anything like the cringeworthy, phony copy in the emails they send! Your email was completely real and I love that. So I guess that makes me one of your ideal clients, haha! I’m only sorry I didn’t take the time to open the email when you originally sent it – really glad to get another chance to read it. Good for you for being who you are and not letting the critics get you down.

    Have a great weekend.

    Judy

  8. Gerard Theron says:

    for you ive got a whole lifetime! I read your status on facebook about making the world a better place. You have a childlike quality I admire. A quality that changes the world. that makes me and others feel the world is not so bad. I truly admire that! I love you!

  9. Dan H says:

    Amber,

    You handled that criticism very well. Sounds like something I would do also to show my customers that I am not out to please everyone.

    I only want to attract the best people to work with in my industry. I feel that it is very important to be selective to who I allow come into my realms, and who gets my valuable time.

    Those ideal customers we find that are attracted to positive energy are the ONLY ones I will work with. I have become very selective now with which clients I will choose to work with, and those I will not.

    Keep up the great work!

    Kind Regards 🙂

  10. Hi Amber – without you I would not have the business I am developing. You have been a HUGE support, encouragement, inspiration and wonderful friend.
    You go girl!!!!!!!! You are the best.

    cheers Chrissy

  11. Rhondda Hartman says:

    I love you and your lovely enthusiastic messages. Do not change! You handled the critical person wisely and lovingly. Just like the sweet, caring one i know you to be. You put a great deal of energy into your response. Very well done!

  12. Melanie says:

    Hi Amber – I have total respect for how you handled that comment. You are soooo right in saying that we have a choice in how we react to things. For such a long time I have had a lot of people want me to dumb down my personality. I am a naturally bubbly and friendly person. When I see a quiet withdrawn person I never think to myself that they need to be more loud or engaging as that is not their true character. I have reached a stage in my life where I will not let people’s negativity drag me down. I really do believe that when people say things like this its because they are jealous. I often look at people and wish I could be more like them for whatever reason but I would never say something negative instead I view it as a chance to learn. I love the information that you give to us and I really do think you handled this well. I am reading a lot of blogs at the moment where people are experiencing negativity and I really don’t understand why people feel the need to say hurtful things to get their message across. One thing is for sure these people are experiencing hurt and don’t know how to channel it in a constructive way. Thanks for sharing this with us and have a great weekend!!! ;o)

  13. Amber you handled fabulously and I pray that I will keep this lesson in mind when my next miserable human interaction confronts me. You can root for me any day.

  14. DrNeen Nina Craft says:

    Good for you Amber! I agree, you are speaking to your ideal client in your targeted message. The woman who didn’t like your style has the option to unsubscribe. But, perhaps your response to her will allow her to see that she has been jaded by life and there is a new opportunity for her to stop feeling isolated in her pain and join a joyful community. Best wishes for continued success. I see you too!

  15. Amber, you did an awesome job of responding to your criticism. I too, got an e-mail yesterday from of all people a person who was giving me business coaching advice. I was shocked, hurt, and I responded as a shocked hurt person. I should have used your tips and responded with kindness and love. God knows me and He knows I’m not normally this type of person. I prayed for forgiveness and love. I prayed that this didn’t permanently destroy our relationship. As it says in Deuteronomy 31:6 “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” That makes me feel so much better. No matter what happens, God was there. He loves me and will not fail me. Forget the past. Look forward to what lies ahead. Thank you for this post. It helped me get through my physical responses to my criticism. I am no long a non existent human living in a world of existing humans who can walk through me. I’m alive and full of love and the world can see me. God did that. He’s the light that shines in my darkness. You are wonderful, Amber.

  16. I loved your first email. What is great about you is that you totally “GET” your ideal client! I feel I can trust you, because I feel like you know me! That’s a pretty awesome thing to accomplish.

  17. Kate Gardner says:

    10/10 Amber for how you delt with that email .. You ROCK !

  18. Hi Amber! How wonderfully and professionally…and AUTHENTICALLY, you handled this! I have days when I have had all of the “rah-rah” that I can take…and usually it is because I am not in action…not moving! Those are exactly the times that I need to really hear what is being said! Those are also the times when your “kick my butt” e-mails help! I need both types, and I want both types…even when I don’t (if you know what I mean). Some people aren’t ready to hear the positive any more than they are the negative…not a judgment…just where they are. And all each of us can do is take responsibility for where we are…or aren’t…and be as authentic as possible in our actions and decisions. You do that everyday…I am proud of you for that and I thank you for providing that example!

  19. WOW! How challenging to receive such an email and how wonderful how you responded to it for starters, and how you then used it to teach others about how to respond to such criticism. AWESOME!! You’re right about being clear about your ideal client – this woman is still so mired in her own negativity that she has no ability to connect into the BEAUTY you represent. How unfortunate for her. My hope – that some part of her mind will hear and respond to your response – that she may open to what you have to offer and the truth that this type of inspired commitment to your clients and your list is worth more than all of the marketing techniques out there. What you represent to people is POWERFUL in the truest sense of it. Having you on their team MATTERS – your belief in them can take them far… When she is ready, she will know that. In the meantime, BE yourself Amber. It’s PERFECT!

  20. Donna Clements says:

    Amber, I loved getting that email! I truly needed it on that day, & I know you DO see some of my posts on FB, as we infrequently interact there. I enjoy your emails, & because my business is in the “Pink Bubble,” I am a see it through rose-colored glasses, my cup is half-full (& half-full of potential) kind of gal. You keep being authentically YOU! We love the way you are!
    Donna

  21. Love it Amber,
    thanks for sharing this incredible lesson.

    When I got the first negative feedback, I didn’t know how to handle it. I heard a hard time wrapping my head around it.

    But after a while I understood that it’s just feedback I can use to refine my message.

    We truly need to put our ego aside in those situations.

    Best regards,
    Jan

  22. Christine says:

    HI Amber,

    I was going to say “hi, it’s me…your biggest fan..” but by the look of all the comments that came before mine, I can see I may have to tussle for that title! 🙂 I love you and I will get to that part in a minute.
    I can understand the point of your email critic – from the point of my INNER critic.

    I am pretty much just starting out. Every day I go back and forth fighting that voice in my head that says I’m lame for trying something new and having the audacity for thinking I can make a life out of what I love to do. In other words, I tell my own self that I am not so great. And many times, I believe it. So, when someone comes along with a voice that trys to defeat that inner voice, it doesn’t feel “as real”. Sorry for the pyschobabble….BUT, I need people like you, Amber. I need you to keep saying that kind of stuff because you have a GIFT for seeing what people don’t always see in themselves and you speak to it. You know that the only way to get that creative endeavor out there is to keep pushing on and the best way to do that is with positivity, encouragement, and compassion. Those are all YOU!

    I can understand if you and this person do not yet have a working relationship yet and if they are a “literal” interpreter of key messages. I can see how not yet knowing each other might make her/him feel like it was sort of cheerleading. But, stopping there would miss the point.

    I think the statement “you are great” in a blog post should be taken as a kind voice one hears inside one’s own head- spoken at this particular time, by Amber Vilhauer. You were not asking for anything…you were speaking to the many whom you know and whom you’d like to know who experience what you write about. So, to your email critic…. I don’t know you either, but I think you are great for writing what you did. You are on the look out for not being easily “taken”. It’s probably a strength of yours. Just don’t let that strength be so overused that you don’t let it in the message that we all need to hear. And please know I am not trying to tell you what to do or how to think, I am probably also talking to the global critic that is in all of us. I hope that makes sense. Thank you all for the opportunity to exchange thoughts.

    With thought and compassion,
    Christine

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