Criticism can become unproductively adversarial.
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This is a follow on from my post about Jotterpad’s deceptive act of removing a feature customers had already paid for, on the sly, and making them buy back that same feature at a higher price on a subscription basis.

The business responded to legitimate criticism, complaint, and feedback as insults and assaults. Their ignore the content of what was said, dug down on their (likely unreflected-upon) position, and struck out defensively with insults and excuses.

They are not helping themselves in terms of customer relations. And they are certainly not leveraging the opportunity to connect with and possibly learn from interactions that originated voluntarily from customers. Businesses pay good money to solicit customer feedback and entice interactions. This business went out of their way to actively shut down unsolicited customer interactions. Because they lack the emotional maturity to handle criticism.

I then came across this article I had saved a while ago, by David Wong: 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person. He outlines some unhelpful beliefs and behaviours that hamper our growth. The point copied below is especially pertinent to businesses that hamper their own growth.

#1. Everything Inside You Will Fight Improvement
Your psyche is equipped with layer after layer of defense mechanisms designed to shoot down anything that might keep things from staying exactly where they are -- ask any addict. The anti-improvement defence is manifested as the following behaviour

David is right. We choose to interpret criticism as insult, and indeed, to engage in any of the abovementioned behaviours. Being at the receiving end of criticism is never a pleasant experience. (Believe me, I know criticism. Part of being a designer is to take criticism.) If we genuinely care about doing a great job and continual improvement, choosing to ignore the presented improvement potential is just shooting ourselves in the foot.

Granted, insults and blame can be disguised as criticism. Master manipulators are skilled at this. (They also disguise insults and blame as questions.) The trick is to suspend our emotional responses and initial assumptions long enough to read through and understand the facts (if any) in the message.

There is also a methodology to give constructive criticism. I’ll share that in the next post.

Read related posts in this series:

  1. JotterPad customer experience fail
  2. Criticism is not (always) insult [this post]
  3. Composing constructive criticism