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  • Christine Hourd

How Successful Leaders Can Safely Speak Out Amongst Critics

A common fear successful leaders had to overcome is the anticipation of hearing from critics. This is especially after you express your opinion, step into the role of a thought leader, give advice, comment on a post, or be interviewed as an expert.


Allowing that fear to control you creates this tendency to hold back what you want to say, or stay small or safe so that you won’t have to open yourself up to that criticism.


Why Successful Leaders Don't Shy Away From Criticism


Criticism is a source of valuable information that allows you to grow personally and professionally, gain more credibility, and fine tune your expertise. Although, you may often cringe at the sight of it, and get defensive when you receive comments that aren't positive.


When someone is criticizing you they’re doing it for a reason. But this feedback can be received as negative because of their emotionally charged reaction to your message. Instead of taking the time to formulate a clear question, or articulating their point of view, they may lash out at you. This is mostly because you connected with them on a personal level and that made them aware of something they're dissatisfied with, or it conflicts with their beliefs.


4 Reasons The Public Lash Out At Successful Leaders Because of Their Comments


If you determine why they're compelled to comment or criticize, then you can take a potentially negative situation and turn it into insight that will help you improve.


Here are four reasons people provide feedback:

  1. They’re seeking more clarity. What you said wasn’t enough detail for them to make a decision about what to do with your information. They relate to your message, but need more direction or detail to help with the next step. Therefore, they're frustrated, and want you to be a more transparent leader.

  2. What you said doesn’t align with their beliefs. They come to the table with different information and experiences, that to them are true and familiar. When you say something that isn’t in alignment with their beliefs, they disagree with what you said, and want to challenge you.

  3. They feel dismissed and not important. One of the biggest human needs is to feel important to someone else. If someone feels that this need isn’t being met, they’ll speak loudly, and say things to gain attention so they feel important and noticed. Often there are other areas of this person's life where they aren't feeling valued. To show that they are important, they target and engage successful entrepreneurs and influencers to be perceived as valued.

  4. Your success is a reflection of them. They see you as a success and start to compare their level of success to yours. You may have reminded them that they haven’t achieved what they wanted to, and this makes them feel like a failure. So instead of building you up and supporting you, they choose to bring you down to make them feel better about themselves and to look successful.

4 Questions to Ask Yourself to Gain Benefit From Negative Feedback

When you receive feedback ask these questions before responding:

  1. What is this person hoping to achieve by sending this message?

  2. Where can I be more clear in my communication?

  3. What can I learn from the message that’s being conveyed?

  4. How can I use this information to grow or improve?

Feedback is like gold, and if you can see it as valuable instead of judgement, then you can use it to your benefit. Receiving feedback is a gift from someone else, who cares enough to tell you that something is wrong. It tells you what you’re doing right and where you can improve.


I would much rather get negative feedback and criticism than no response at all.

By communicating a more defined message, you're able to generate valuable feedback. If you remain vague and safe in your messages, then you confuse the listener and don’t provide any value. You fail to connect.


People want to experience your message, they want to relate to it, and to you. Don’t deny them that opportunity. Create an authentic experience that'll connect you to your audience on a deeper level, and then you’ll be seen as a more successful leader.


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Christine Hourd is a certified professional success and leadership life coach in Calgary, Alberta. She works with clients online and in person who want to better manage conflict and enjoy more positive experiences personally and professionally. Contact Christine to find out how Leadership Coaching can help you achieve your professional goals.

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