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Op/Ed

Use these tips to respond to criticism so you can make your business, not break it

(EDITORIAL) You can go ahead and add criticism to that list of certainties in life. How you respond to criticism can make or break your career though. Use these tips to navigate those situations.

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The inevitability of criticism

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, you are going to face criticism. Some will be helpful and positive, while some will be negative and crush your spirit.

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Recognizing whether criticism is constructive or destructive can help you put it into perspective and use it to your advantage, instead of allowing it to tear you down.

Constructive vs destructive

The main difference between constructive and destructive criticism is how it is delivered. Constructive criticism values your feelings and helps you improve. Destructive criticism simply hurts your feelings. When criticism is delivered with the phrase, “no offense,” you can almost bet the person is trying to undermine you and not attempting to help. But when the person offers a compliment, then a way to improve, it’s constructive.

How to deal

Even constructive criticism can be hard on a person. It can really damage your self-esteem, if you let it. So, don’t let it.

When you get criticized, instead of taking the knee-jerk response of letting it get you down, take a few minutes to consider:

1. What’s the context? Is the person giving you context someone you should be listening to? An anonymous comment on Facebook is much different than a regular customer whose business you have earned.

2. Consider the source. Has the critic earned the right to offer it? In my field, I listen to editors who have fiction industry first-hand knowledge over people who rarely read.

3. If the criticism comes from a troll or a person who has no bearing on your business, you might just need to delete it from your mind. I’m not saying that’s easy, but you have to rise above the chaff, so to speak. Blow it off.

4. If the criticism is something you can use, appreciate the criticism. Whether or not you choose to do anything with the comments, you should thank the person and tell them that you’ll consider their input. Look at their words objectively and see if you can make your business better.

5. Accept that people are going to have their own opinions about your business or situation. When you put yourself out in the public, you are going to be critiqued. People make decisions every day about whether to shop with you or not. If it’s due to something you can change, to make the customer experience better, wouldn’t you rather have that information, even when it’s delivered rather abruptly?

Take a breath

If you are criticized take it in stride – the sky isn’t falling. If it is constructive try to see where the other person is coming from and let it make you better. If the criticism is destructive, again, try to see if it holds any merit and then, like water on a duck’s back, let it roll off, don’t let it make you bitter.

And in either case, assume the best of the critic’s intentions, keep a short account with the critic (don’t hold a grudge), and try to not take it too personally.

#Criticism

Dawn Brotherton is a staff writer at The Real Daily, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. Before earning her degree, she spent over 20 years homeschooling her two daughters, who are now out changing the world. She lives in Oklahoma and loves to golf. She hopes to publish a novel in the future.

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Op/Ed

A hugely dangerous challenge of the Internet of Things

(EDITORIAL) The Internet of Things is here, with all manner of soft AI voices and shiny Bluetooth bits. But how long can we count on it staying?

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So, robot apocalypse. The Internet of Things machines have their cold metal fingers all up in our data, our houses, our sand dunes and/or porn.

And for what? What do they offer in exchange for this unprecedented invasion of our day to day lives?

Seamless, user-friendly automation to help with a thousand daily tasks, demonstrably improving our quality of life.

That’s… that’s actually a pretty good offer! Nice work, robots.

It comes with catches, and we’ve covered those, but Day One bumps and blunders are part of owning tech. They generally get engineered out.

What I want to talk about is Day 100, or 1000. Because the important word in “Internet of Things” isn’t “Internet.” We have the Internet. We can confidently expect the Internet to continue being a big deal.

But “things” is an important word. Things are distinct from tech. With tech, buying the thing and futzing with the thing are part of the fun, especially for practicing nerds like your narrator. Tech is new, and the excitement of a new game or a new phone can take the edge off, say, a server crash or a quick trip to tech support and back.

What about things? No early adopter aura in history will get a customer to ignore a fridge full of rotten food. Fridges need to work, period. So does your thermostat and your car. All those things are charter candidates for the full IoT overhaul, and they’re all capital T Things, not tech. They aren’t shiny toys people can live without for a week or four. They’re expected parts of daily life, things that need to work on Day 1, 100, and 1000.

Are companies preparing for that? Are the startups rising out of the blue-light-white-plastic Stuff Renaissance prepared to rebrand as global service providers, doing the hard, unglamorous, absolutely necessary work of digital maintenance?

Bigger question: are they prepared to guarantee security while they do so? Because anything with digitized bits needs patches and updates to function, and if it can download patches and updates, it can download things that are not patches and updates. No one wants to chase a botnet out of their microwave. Are the companies invested in always-on Things standing up and saying they’ll take responsibility for indefinitely securing and maintaining the infrastructure they intend to profit from?

Short answer, no. They’re not. Operations departments tend to be vanishingly small, painfully understaffed, spectacularly underpaid. Let’s be real,: we don’t prioritize stuff like that. We’re talking the digital equivalent of the guy who chases the raccoons out of your HVAC, and that sounds entirely too much like work.

Maintenance is not sexy.

But it’s absolutely necessary. It’s generally just the beginning of a thing. It gets the wheel rolling, and that’s not to be undersold.

But the IoT wheel is most definitely rolling. The issue is keeping it in motion, making it a wifi-level universal usage standard, not a 3DTV fad.

That won’t get done in a meeting. That gets done through long term adoption, and long term adoption will be about attracting, training, and retaining people willing to do the hard work of maintenance and customer support.

The Internet of Things wants to be a major step forward in the infrastructure of daily life. I am incredibly in favor of that. But daily life works because it’s the full time job of a whole lot of people to make sure it does so. So to Internet of Things companies, I say – pay them, treat them well, make your organization the best place in the industry for them, or be left behind by the people who do.

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Op/Ed

Incorporating less stress into your work day

(WORKPLACE) Telling someone to chill when stressed at work is useless advice, so let’s discuss meaningful, tangible ways anyone can stress less at work.

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You can’t avoid all the stress of a job, whether you own your own business or work for someone. It’s important to deal with chronic stress. Long-term, stress will affect your immune system, causing you to get sick more often. It’s linked to heart disease, heart attacks, low fertility and many other health problems. It can make asthma and acid reflux much worse. You have to manage your stress.

How can you incorporate less stress into your work? I have dealt with anxiety all my life. Here are a few of my most effective solutions:

1. Set boundaries

No is a complete sentence. I know my priorities and have to make myself say no to even simple requests. I’ve learned that the less I explain, the more likely I’m going to stick to those boundaries. I can’t stop people from asking me to do something, but I can make sure that I’m getting my work in on time.

2. Don’t wait until the last minute

I’m a horrible example to follow, because I can procrastinate with the best of them. But I’ve found that when I work ahead of deadlines, I am far less stressed. I set imaginary deadlines for myself. If I miss it, I still have time to work. If I don’t, I sleep better because the project is done.

3. Get up away from your desk at least every 60 minutes

Just getting a fresh cup of coffee reminds me to stretch and move. Five minutes away from my screen can help me stay focused on the next project I need to finish. I also try to look away from the computer screen every 10/15 minutes. This reduces eye strain.

4. Leave your work on your desk

Okay, I’ll admit I read emails after hours, but very seldom do I act on them. I’m finding that I need to shut down at 5 or 6 in the afternoon and forget about work. We’re so connected these days that it can be difficult to separate. But you have to. Your family will thank you. Your sanity will thank you.

I’m sure there are more things you can do to relieve your stress. Get a massage. Exercise. Eat healthy. All those things your doctor tells you to do. But before you can practice self-care, you have to prioritize your time and deal with work stress.

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Op/Ed

4 questions to ask yourself every day to change your life

(EDITORIAL) Ask these four questions of yourself daily to improve your personal and business life in a meaningful way.

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My therapist says that people who can be introspective usually get farther in life because of their adaptability. Merriam-Webster defines introspection as “an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings.”

It’s not easy to look deep into yourself, but it offers many benefits. Through introspection, you can see negative patterns in your life before they get out of control. You can define your own life on your own terms. And you can stop worrying about things you can’t control.

If you need help focusing your introspection, here are some of the questions to ask yourself to make sure you’re on the right track: 


What good shall I do this day? 


Ben Franklin asked himself this question every day as part of his daily routine. I think it’s a great way to remember that your life is about more than your responsibilities and duties. The good you do doesn’t have to be show-stopping. Sometimes, just buying someone a cup of coffee or remembering to stop and smile can make the day special for you and the other person.

Why am I feeling….?

When I get angry or resentful, I know that something is out line. Usually, it’s not because I’m really mad at the other person, I’m upset because I feel as if my boundaries are being infringed upon. Instead of destroying a relationship, I sort out my feelings and try to resolve the problem in peace.

Why am I choosing to do…?

In my family, we used to have a system where we’d give events a score on how much we wanted to do it. This was really helpful when everyone seemed to apprehensive. If we couldn’t get 10 points between all 4 of us, we probably shouldn’t go. (This only works with optional events.) It’s good to ask yourself why to remember you have options.

Who am I spending my time with?

If your friends and family aren’t validating, inspiring and helping you to do better, why are they in your life? It’s hard to breakup, but when people aren’t uplifting, consider minimizing your time with them. Don’t put up with people who drag you down.

Asking these four questions of yourself every day leads to a more introspective life which can improve not only your personal life, but your business life.

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