5 Ways to Handle a Bad Review (From a Novelist)

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As an entrepreneur, you pour all your energy and soul into your business–some would consider it an extension of themselves–so it’s only natural that a ghastly review could potentially drive you over the edge. How should you treat those scathing reviews? Firstly, remember that you have the power to choose how you react.

For other ideas, novelist Curtis Sittenfeld shares how she handles ‘nightmare’ reviewers in a recent New York Times piece. Here are her top five tips:

1. Take it from whence it comes.

Sittenfeld, author of the best-selling novels Prep and American Wife, says she doesn’t read reviews as often today as earlier in her career. But when she does, she focuses on the ones written in publications she respects.

Take a page out of her book and keep in mind who is reviewing you and where. Is it an anonymous comment among thousands in your Amazon page? Or is it a critique from a trusted source, like your business partner or mentor?

2. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.

Reviews are a bit arbitrary, says Sittenfeld. “All of us as individuals have quirky, subjective taste,” she told The New York Times. And as the saying goes, you can’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Acknowledge you’re likely to come across a few bad reviews and accept that you have a different opinion.

3. Be your ultimate quality control.

Sittenfeld says that one of the worst reviews she received was for a book she knew had a few weaknesses. The review called her out on it and that’s why it bothered her. Since then, she has become her ultimate quality control. “I can’t let a book be published if it has problems that still feel fixable,” she says.

Likewise, learn to recognize the flaws in your products or services and do your best to correct them. If you are satisfied with how you’ve solved a problem, then remember tip number two: everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.

4. Focus on the positive reviews.

Sittenfeld says she reads reviews that are “smart and positive, smart and negative or dumb and positive.” She says she finds no point in reading a “dumb, negative review” and neither should you.

5. Use silence as an effective counterattack.

Sittenfeld describes nightmare reviewers as those who have an agenda or just like taking someone “down a notch” when they have been getting a good amount of attention. Inherently, there will always be a strong yearning to respond to them, but unless it’s to clarify a misunderstanding, it may be best to contain it. “You’re better off biting your tongue,” recommends Sittenfeld.