How to Know When Criticism Will Help You or Hurt You

Gosh this year has really flown by, and I think it feels faster today since we are all living on multiple planes of not just reality but virtuality. It is impossible to actually be alone anymore as there is always someone ready and willing online to either dish praise or bash (not always gently) with criticism. It amazes me how the lack of reality emboldens some to share thoughts invited or not.

I found myself derailed recently when twice in one week I had unexpected critiques of two different videos on a page I had posted. The criticism wasn’t requested, came from a virtual “friend” on Facebook and from a “follower” on Twitter, and ironically had nothing to do with the page (in fact that was praised.) I felt truly slammed.

Video is a challenging medium for me. I grew up with a mother in front of the camera; a mother who hyper-criticized her own performances. And her performances were professionally directed, scripted, and filmed, not the rank amateur job I was doing on a flip camera.

I’ve learned from the online video guys like Lou Bortone and Perry Lawrence, that it’s about being yourself, not being perfect, and just getting it out there. I’ve been working on that so you may imagine (and struggle with the same challenges) that being told:

  • my background wasn’t professional (was it supposed to be? I wasn’t in a studio)
  • I was too close (geez, my arms aren’t long enough and a flip doesn’t have a remote)
  • To shoot in the daytime (well it was 10am and I had great light)

really sent me reeling.

I know, I know I might seem like I’m one tough cookie, but I’ve got a marshmallow center and this created a meltdown. Fortunately I called an online colleague and friend and he brought me back to earth with very sage advice.

There are five simple questions to check the relevancy of any criticism. Don’t get derailed like I did, instead take a look at the questions here so you can vet the next round of criticism you may receive uninvited on a video, copy, ezine, teleseminar or other public work you share. Be selective in WHO you listen to and pay attention to. (I know this sounds obvious, but I missed it!)

  1. Are they your target market?
  2. Do they know your goals?
  3. Are they qualified? (How much do they know about what they are criticisizing?)
  4. Do they truly have your best interests at heart?
  5. Are they providing valued options to improve (or just slamming?)

It is easy to be a critic, before you do next time, ask if the person wants feedback and be sure you can provide it in a way that is constructive, not destructive. Learn about their goals, be sure you are qualified, and make sure you can make solid suggestions for improvement. If you miss any of these pieces, it is best not to share your thoughts.

Sometimes it really is better to be kind than to be right and there are often ways to do both!


  1. says

    Melissa, great advice. There’s a comfort in knowing that criticism impacts everyone (not just me!), but it can be a waste of time to focus on it. And, when someone is trying to help us, we can learn from it. Thanks!

  2. says

    Sagely and humbly understood:)

    Having been slammed myself on several occasions (from people benefitting from my free advice and guidance) I have realised that there is one quality that people have overlooked completely in internet connection, the art of benevolence.

    Thank-you for the lesson,

    In gratitude

    • Melissa Galt says

      I’ve had to learn the challenging lesson that being direct is always the best route, but instead asking for permission to share comments (I know it is kind of stilted but often better received)

      Hugs, M

  3. says

    So true! I’ve learned that the more you put yourself out there, the more prepared you’d best be for criticism. Personally, “taking it with a grain of salt” doesn’t work well for me. That sounds like you’re not supposed to acknowledge to yourself that it may have hurt your feelings. Now, I allow myself to have hurt feelings, just for a moment, then move through the process by asking myself similar questions to the ones you posted.

    I’ve also worked hard to stay aware of who drains me with their nay-saying, and I either keep them at arms length, or listen to what they say with a different “filter”.

    Gosh, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a celebrity who gets criticized for every comment they make, every “wrong” fashion choice or every pound they gain. No matter how controversial they are, I admire their ability to manage the criticism and judgement to which they are subjected!

    • Melissa Galt says

      Being a celebrity can be brutal and I know a bit only because I grew up with one! In many cases it is best not even to read what someone writes. It is often a mirror or projection of their own stuff.

      Hugs, M

  4. says

    Right on!! I like your “criteria” for critics. Think I’ll put those on an index card and keep it on my desk. Anyone who doesn’t fulfil all or almost all gets a “thanks for your feedback” — or perhaps a less polite response. (mentally at least!)

  5. says

    Way to go Melissa! Personally in the last few years, I really worked on taking what I want from criticism (when it’s positive I call them pointers) from others but then leaving what I don’t want or better yet, what does not feel right to me when I hear it. Most importantly doing essentially what you are doing with your check list…looking at the criticism & Critic objectively and not taking it personally.
    We have a tendancy to personalize so many things especially when it has to do with our careers, and when someone says anything slightly negative it can just leave us reeling. You reminded us that taking a step back and re-evaluating where this information is coming from is a key to not personalizing it. Thanks!

    • Melissa Galt says

      Yes it can be a challenge when our ego (or at least mine) gets in the way! Remaining objecting and acting instead of reacting is key.

      Hugs, M

  6. says

    Oh! I’ve been there. Funny thing how the mind totally clings to the negativity!

    Thank you for sharing those insights. I know that I have a pretty tough time with criticism, particularly in a public space. It takes a lot of courage to do what you are doing Melissa, and choosing to use video is equality challenging.

    You offer some great really actionable points to practice. I’m gonna have to note those down and have them handy!

    I also appreciate you being so candid and letting us in one it .

    • Melissa Galt says

      I figure I have a thicker skin than many so if it is affecting me, I can only imagine how others are taking criticism. I’m all about keeping it positive and know there is a way to do it better!

      Hugs, M

  7. says

    Melissa- great advice that I need to put in the forefront of my mind. Growing up with a hypercritical parent has made me extremely sensitive to criticism. For a very long time, I wasn’t able to make decisions on my own and was paralyzed with fear that I was going to do something wrong. Any negative feedback and I was devastated. To this day I hear a little voice that sounds just like my mother in my head critiquing everything I do. Thanks for sharing.

    • Melissa Galt says

      You are soooo not alone. I still hear my Mom’s voice in my head correcting my grammar and harping on those 5 lbs that aren’t budging! Some patterns aren’t worth repeating and we have to learn to let them go and create new ways to empower ourselves.
      Hugs, M

  8. says

    So you were shot at twice this week. I do not want to appear like a “horse’s axx, but I say … Good.! Why? Because in a twisted way it shows your viewers are paying attention. Lots of it! They are watching even the minutest details.

    I won’t go on about it. Just want to share these two thoughts.
    “Nobody kicks a dead horse” and the other one is my own thought. So far, nobody has ever built a monument to a critic.

    You ARE a tough cookie. As Mohamed Ali used to do, “just roll with the punches”.

    • Melissa Galt says


      Ahh but not as tough a cookie as imagined. I’m more like that Godiva chocolate with a center of marshmallow! I am rolling but wanted to share that I’m not impervious.

      Hugs, M

  9. says

    Thanks for sharing. I LOVED the quote at start of this post. I think it’s so brave to put yourself out there. I too have been thinking about video and the perfectionist in me is keeping this from getting off the ground. I am always amazed that uninvited comments seem to come from those who are neither experts or are doing anything remotely earthshaking. The good news is you are a wonderful speaker and have an engaging and open appearance on camera… I have also tried to make peace with not trying to please everyone and it is ok not to have EVERYONE doing back flips…most important is your target market . Keep doing what you are doing.

    • Melissa Galt says

      Thanks Dawn,
      Just go for it with video that is what my favorite Lou Bortone and Perry Lawrence continue to say, and they are EXPERTS!
      Looking foolish, not having a perfect background, bad lighting, well Gary Vaynerchuck did it all and grew his family’s wine biz by 12x in just 5 years. Wowza. Imperfection beats inaction (hmm I feel a tweet coming on.)

      Hugs, M

  10. Debby Hall says

    I love the 5 question criteria you have for measuring criticism! It is amazing to me how many people are eager to “help” you with their critiques while never being asked. One of the hardest lessons to learn is that you can’t please everyone, no matter how hard you try It is so hard not to take is personally and most likely that is not the way it is intended. Of course, there are always haters out there and I guess we just have to tune them out. Easier said than done. The good thing about this happening to any of us is that it reminds us to be gentle with our words… the pen truly is mightier that the sword.

    • Melissa Galt says

      Hey Debby,
      Yes the pen is mightier than the sword when a human ego is at stake, often more fragile than a human heart, LOL. Funniest because one of the critics actually never sent the video promised to “help” me and then confessed it was his first! YIKES.

      Hugs, M

  11. Brent MacPhail says

    Thanks for sharing your personal feelings and for the opportunity to comment.

    When I have performed as an entertainer people occasionally said I needed to sing louder and if I sang louder then it didn’t seem authentic and sometimes I was asked to tone it down. It frustrating me to hear this because I was just trying to please everyone. I traced it back to trying to be a ‘good boy’ to keep my Mom’s approval. It felt like the world would end if I couldn’t.

    The singer Ricky Nelson was playing a comeback concert with his new songs at Madison Square Garden and the people booed a lot because he wasn’t playing his old hits.
    Disappointed, he went back to his hotel room and wrote probably his biggest hit ‘Garden Party”. I like singing it, esp. the line, ‘You can’t please everyone so you got to please yourself.’

    You inspire me Melissa,
    Please make more videos!

    • Melissa Galt says


      Do the best you can do and let the rest go. More often than not criticism is a comment about the inadequacy of the critic!

      Lot’s of lessons to learn.

      Hugs, M

  12. Elaine Spitz says

    Melissa, you have many supporters here and it’s no wonder. You always give sage advice and encourage all who listen to be the best they can be. Your advice to would-be critics is right on. So is the advice to stay on course with your goals and don’t take things to heart (me marshmallow, too!).

    Thanks for talking about this tricky issue of criticism – we’ll all learn from your story.

  13. says

    In the words of Billy Joel,” Don’t go changing to try and please me”, You already have. I find your style most appealing and more importantly easy to follow and comprehend. Now don’t let me stifle your creativity. I am just happy the way things are with you and your presentations. Best, Gracie

    p;s. thanks for the insights derived from your recent meltdown.
    Some Mores, anyone ?

    • Melissa Galt says

      That’s a cute one, S’mores anyone! LOL. No the only change I’m making is ever more me here with maybe a bit less polish. Tough to walk that line of professional vs. personal. I find that when I open it up with a tiny rant I get more comments and interaction and that feeds my soul!

      Hugs, M

  14. says

    Melissa, don’t you worry about using video even if it’s not perfect. You are brave for doing so, and the person who criticized probably hasn’t ever done it themselves! I will one day in the future get brave enough to use video in my blog and I am going to use the cheapest version of the Flip since that is what I have! If someone doesn’t like it, well……………

    • Melissa Galt says

      With that gorgeous face you will knock us all out! Let’s see that video lady, and be sure and send me a link. You inspire me!

      Hugs, M

  15. says

    So true Melissa. We can easily allow ourselves to be derailed but your questions are good checks to see if “the criticizers” matter.

    Dan Kennedy says you first aim in marketing is to polarise people – most have no opinion, so some will loathe you but some will love you. They are your customers. So success means pushing some people away.

    It’s also good to recall that they don’t erect statues to critics.

    • Melissa Galt says

      Good reminder from the Grandaddy of No BS Marketing (went to one of his very early live pitchfests, LOL)

      I’m going to polarize more often and see who really cares and let go who doesn’t.



  16. says

    Some people are clueless or snarky. They elevate themselves by finding fault in others. IF your business is growing, IF you are getting the results you want from your vids, then just delete these people and their comments, at least from your mind. I do throw the baby out w/the bathwater at times. I don’t want negativity from people who think they are helping me. There’s a lot of sick people in this world. They thrive on gossip and negativity.

    I previously offered feedback, whether or not people ask, re vids or posts. I’ve learned in most cases it’s a total waste of my time. I’ve seen vids shot outside a windy lake, with blasts of wind disrupting the speaker’s voice. I’ve heard people ramble on and on, never clearly stating the topic or point or taking 15 minutes when 3 would do. I’ve heard peeps in their cars, with many distractions.

    Some are very successful, or so they say. I say, I don’t want to be around people like that. So in love with themselves. The few times I’ve given feedback, they jump all over me. I don’t know why I should listen to them. It’s not pleasant, it’s distracting, and I’ve got better things to do with my life. So what if they are making money. They are not my mentors.

    I’ve written to people to please use paragraph returns, spell check, capitalize beginning of sentences. I’ve explained why, in great detail. These technical and practical tips help people understand and remember. They write back that their friends love what they are doing. Then why did they send out an email asking for feedback?

    If someone only wants praise from me, while creating vids or posts which meander or are hard to understand/read, they are asking the wrong person.

    You, on the other hand, always write thoughtful posts. I hate vids,* so I’m not going to comment on yours or anyone else’s ever again. IF vids work for you, keep it up!

    It’s an amazing fact we only need a FEW people who “get” us to succeed. We do NOT need everyone’s approval. We don’t need everyone in our lives. As our lives change, so do the people who surround us.

    I love the fact we are reflected in/ny those around us. IF people want to be snarky, either delete their comments, block them, or remove them from your heart and mind. Easier said than done, but we can’t please all the people all the time. We can’t even please all the people. IF we can, we are appealing to the lowest common denominator.

    I fled a potentially amazing life as a photographer, probably as a vid director too. I felt so much rejection. I had no idea how many people I’ve affected in profoundly positive ways. IF only I hadn’t allowed the naysayers to drag me down! We have NO idea our many true friends, fans and followers.

    Took me YEARS to realize that ONLY movers and shakers get attacked from the front and the rear. Those who fear change will attack from the front, so you gotta dodge those bullets. Those who want to be up front and center will stab you in the back. IF you are not being attacked, you are playing it too safely. The question is: is the criticism valid? ONLY you can decide that, usually based on the results you are or are not getting.

    I don’t know why many people are reluctant to share praise. Yet too many don’t think twice at giving unwarranted criticism. Human nature. The years I’ve lost. Now I just move on.

    For every person you leave behind, many more will come into your life. WHEN you ONLY accept those who truly benefit you in your life. When the criticism is constructive and on-point. Only YOU can decide that!

    * [I hate vids because I am a fast reader. I learn far better via reading, cos I have a somewhat photographic memory. I can re-read that which resonates; skim through that which is not pertinent or meandering. I get too distracted listening to most audio and esp online vids. If I want to see vids, I watch old movies on TCM. I rarely watch youtube, even if it’s me in a rare punk vid. I like to see vivid details and low res drives me nuts. That’s the artist in me!]

    • Melissa Galt says

      You are a consummate writer and I know what you mean about video being distracting.I strive to make it brief, high energy, and impactful. I pay attention to all those little (and not so little elements.) It is never too late to be what you might have been unless you decide it is. You are one incredibly versatile talent and I’ve no doubt can do video and photography still and always if you want to.

      In the meantime I always look forward to your comments, your rants, your shares.

      YOU ROCK!

      Hugs, M

  17. says

    To Melissa – Boy what an incredible person you are! I have never seen aynone respond to each and every person who made a comment.
    Tu eres una mujer fantastica! (If you want to know the English version you are going to have to Google it)

    • Melissa Galt says

      Ohh no, I screwed up, I’m not so incredible because I missed this one! I think I replied by email but no excuses. Missed talking of late.

      Best, Melissa

    • Melissa Galt says

      We do, we do, and I’ve been covering my marshmallow with a hard chocolate shell for way too long. Time to let it out.

      Hugs, Melissa

    • Melissa Galt says


      You are right, of course! I have learned a lot in the last two years about criticism and the source. All valuable lessons.

      Hugs, Melissa

  18. says

    Good evening, Melissa.

    I have to be honest and say I haven’t seen your video, but I do appreciate what I have read so far of your posting.

    I’m afraid I’m one of those people who hurts easily; see criticism where it doesn’t exist; and am perpetually afraid of upsetting someone or being disliked. And quite often this self-harmful thinking is quite unnecessary. If someone doesn’t come back to me quickly, I think I’ve upset them. They’re usually most bemused when I apologise, as they weren’t upset in the first place!

    So, what do I do? Mouth in fast forward and probably just about everything I can possibly do to make them criticise and reject. A sort of ‘let’s get this over and done with and let it be on my terms’ sort of thing. But the weird thing is I don’t realise I’m doing it until the deed is done!

    Trying to give myself the belief that I am in control, I suppose. But it still hurts – a lot.

    There are lots of reasons I should know better and be different, but sometimes old habits are difficult to break. Especially if they were acquired in early years and reinforced over time.

    Logic tells us one thing, our hearts and emotions quite often tell us another.

    Kind regards,

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