For better or for worse, with the internet and social media, nearly everyone can (and does!) get online to voice their opinions about just about everything to anyone and everyone that will listen. And while all of the positive feedback can be great for business, resulting in increased sales, referrals and recognition, the negative feedback, even from just one person if not handled properly, can be amplified and cause a lot of damage. So, here are a few easy tips to handle criticism effectively:

(1) Be in the Know
In order to be able to respond to negative feedback, you have to know what is being said about you and your business in the first place! Aside from comments posted on your own websites, blogs or articles, you can set up Google Alerts for free, so that you are notified whenever you or your business are mentioned online. I personally use a solution from Yahoo!, a client of mine, called the Yahoo! Marketing Dashboard, which you can also set up for free. This will allow to you quickly reply to anyone that has left negative feedback or criticism, so that you can diffuse the situation before it gets out of hand or even turn the situation around (see points 2 and 3 below). And if you were unable to turn the situation around, you can at least explain your side of the story and leave it for others to decide for themselves.

(2) Walk in Their Shoes
When we first hear any kind of criticism, most people’s gut reaction is to respond with emotion-based defensiveness. But in business (or in our personal lives too, for that matter!), you really need to take a step back and remove yourself from the equation to truly see the issue from that person’s perspective. Take a true rational, objective look at where the other person is coming from, so that you can understand how to best resolve the issue. If it’s something that you are feeling personally attacked or offended by, take a few minutes to calm down, so that you can respond from a rational place to get the best outcome.

(3) Kill ‘Em with Kindness
After you have calmed down, be as empathetic and nice as you can possibly be in your response. You’ll be surprised at what an impact a genuine personal response can have and just saying “thanks” or “sorry” can really go a long way. Humor (when appropriate) is also a great way to ease tension and works especially well when handling face-to-face criticism. Offering a real solution can turn a negative into a positive can be even better for your business in the long run, as everyone can see the positive way that you handled the situation.

(4) Find Your Happy Place
Even just one piece of criticism or negative feedback can really weigh heavy on you. Even if you have received 100 compliments, just one criticism can blot out all 100 of those wonderful things that others have said. So, keep a list or box of all of the positive comments, notes and feedback that you and your business have received. Read over it before you deal with negative feedback or if a particular criticism is getting to you, so that you can be more rational when responding to it.

These are just a few easy tips to handle negative feedback. What other tips do you have? Please share them below.

Thanks to Sandra Rand of ShareAndTell Pro, Janet Christy of Leverage & Development, LLC, Francine L. Trevens of TnT Classic Books, Therese Pope of Zenful Communications, and Paula Pant of for the inspiration behind some of these ideas.