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Consider The Source

Criticism. Most people hate it.

But, astute people thrive on it. How else would they grow? The best thing you can do when people criticize something you’ve done or said is consider the source. Are they an objective reviewer? Are they being truthful? Are they capable of making the observation?

If so, don’t be reactive. Be receptive. They might say something you weren’t aware of and could greatly learn from. For instance, when I usually conduct a corporate workshop, I often ask the audience a question. I never realized that I didn’t give the audience a chance to answer me. I would jump right in and start talking. My client called me aside after it was over and said to me, “Why don’t you wait after you ask a question for someone to respond?” It was a revelation. I never realized I didn’t. Since then, I hesitate. I count to ten. I wait to let others think. To me, it seems like an hour, even though it’s probably less than twenty seconds. What a difference! People participate and join the discussion. I finally realized I was hogging the presentation without ever knowing it.

Another time, when I was a sales rep for a radio station, my sales manager accompanied me on a sales pitch.

I thought I did a wonderful job explaining the station’s benefits, audience and marketing value to the potential client. When we left, she said, “He’ll never buy.” I was shocked. Stunned. Flabbergasted. “How could you say that?” I demanded, my ego bruised. She said, “Because you didn’t learn anything about the client and his needs. He wasn’t interested in the station. He wanted to know how you could help him.” I went numb. I was stupefied. I was amazed. I suddenly realized she was right. I didn’t hear the client. I only heard my voice. Right then, I learned it’s not about my persuasive panache. It’s about understanding and meeting the client’s goals. It was a lesson I never forgot. In that one single moment, I became a better listener. A better sales person. A better marketer. I became someone who could sell anything because I learned how to put the other person’s aims ahead of my own. I saw sales and marketing as a partnership where I would develop a plan based on specific needs, not just my company’s capabilities.

Every time I grew professionally, it happened when someone’s comments caught me off guard and surprised me by pointing out something to which I was oblivious. I think we learn when we least expect it. But, only if we’re open to listening to what may be very difficult to hear.

Even when you consider the source, be open to any source.

Don’t close your mind and think, “Oh, what do they know?” It’s not necessarily about what they know, but what you don’t know. That’s the whole point. It doesn’t matter who delivers the message. If it’s the message you need to hear at that moment, it could come from anyone. Colleague or stranger.

I have a quote hanging in my office that helps me every day. It’s from a surprisingly unexpected source: a Scottish whiskey distiller and salesman who lived from 1864-1930.

Minds are like parachutes. They only function when open. – Sir Thomas R. Dewar

What a simple, yet profound statement. It quickly reminds us how we often shut out what we don’t want to hear. We think, “I know better.” But, if we allow ourselves to consider some painful criticism, just think how much better we could function. Just like the parachute, we might even soar.


Margo Berman is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire.