Have you ever found yourself reading the comments section for a restaurant you found on Yelp (or another similar application) and thought to yourself, “How is this place even in business?” Or, “Wow, I’ve got to try this place!”

While restaurant owners reap many benefits from Yelp, few cash in on one of the most valuable elements of these online tools. Coincidentally, it’s the same element most of us avoid regardless of success, position, industry, or experience.

Hungry for authentic Greek food in Baltimore, I grabbed my phone and did a quick search. It a matter of moments, I saw which ones were highly rated, read through a few comments, and then made my choice.

After thoroughly enjoying the food, I found myself chatting it up with the owner, who is thinking about opening another location in DC. During our conversation, I learned about his love/hate relationship with Yelp and the painstaking process they continue to go through as they work toward simplifying their menu and ordering process.

“It’s clear to me what you like about Yelp,” I said, “It’s actually what got me here today! Help me understand what you dislike about it so much.”

“The negative comments,” he said. “You can’t please everyone, and some people like to take their bad day out on you there.”

Considering his interest in strengthening his current processes before expanding to the DC market, I wondered if perhaps the criticisms were actually the most valuable aspect of Yelp for his business.

“Most people will not come in here and tell you what they don’t like,” I suggested, and he agreed. “Instead, they’ll tell everyone they know about their bad experience, and silently destroy your reputation without you even having a chance to make improvements. Through Yelp, you get an insiders view of what’s working well, and what needs improving.”

As he slowly nodded his head up and down, I wondered out loud, “Has anyone complained about the confusion of your ordering process?”

“Yes, and it doesn’t make any sense—it’s simple. You come in, order, and take your seat. We bring the food to you,” he said.

Nervously, I said, “Really, because I find it confusing,” and began explaining why. Listening intently, he kept nodding, almost as if the comments on Yelp were starting to make sense.

With a renewed perspective of the criticisms, the negative comments are now serving as the foundation for his growth, rather than the bane of his existence. Actually, that’s the purpose of all criticism—Growth, though some people are clueless when it comes to word choice and tone of voice when offering their critique.

No matter your position, title, or business, it’s far more enjoyable to read or listen to positive feedback then it is to carefully consider criticism and make adjustments based on your goals. Improvement (growth!) requires a different/better approach, which we discover by listening and adjusting to critique.

This week, consider pausing and asking more questions when you feel yourself getting defensive. Additionally, you may consider asking a colleague, boss, or even a close friend to help you see where you may be getting in your own way. When they offer ideas, repeat them back to make sure you understood them correctly, and then thank them. Keep doing this, and watch as your career, company, and reputation take off.

Beware: as you do this, others will be inspired by your courage, and begin the process themselves. As you step into your greatness, so will they!

Here’s to your greatness,

Misti Burmeister

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