Learning how to be friends with criticism in the salon.


“People will tell you that you are wrong. Then they will tell you that you are right, but what you’re doing is really not important. Finally, they will admit that you are right and what you are doing is very important. But after all, they knew it all the time.”

Jonas Salk (creator of the polio vaccine)


I love working in a creative industry.  I still can’t believe I’m able to play with design and express myself as part of my job. But when when you’re doing interesting things criticism is inevitable.

Have you ever been criticized by a client, your boss or a fellow stylist in your salon? It can hurt (sometimes a lot) but it’s important to remember it can also help us grow. Learning how to handle criticism well can make the difference between suffering through soul crushing self-doubt and reaching new, fulfilling heights in life.

I was fortunate to get schooled on the positive side of criticism during my university years.   Before I became a business owner I trained as an architect. In that training, all our work ended with a design “crit” (critique) where mentors and supervisors offered feedback on our design. This helped us learn what we could have done better on a project and grow our skills.

Sadly, many of us have never been taught how to handle to criticism well.  Our knee jerk response is to get defensive or ignore the feedback. No one likes being told that they suck, but we can choose how to respond to negative feedback. We can either take it as an opportunity to learn and grow or we can wallow in defeat.

The great news is that with practice you can make friends with criticism:

  • Start by separating yourself from the criticism — Remember, it’s not actually about you, it’s about an action or event that has happened.
  • Don’t get defensive — Responding negatively reflects poorly on you and often doesn’t lead to learning. Stay calm. If you feel yourself getting angry, walk away. Sometimes criticism makes sense after we take time to think about it.
  • Acknowledge the commenter’s point and thank them — This disarms aggressive people and changes the dynamic of the conversation.
  • Really listen to their feedback — Don’t interrupt them, just let them talk it out.
  • Ask open-ended questions — This shows you are listening and helps you learn. Yes-no questions limit the answers you get and that reduces the learning potential.
  • Ask yourself why and who — Is there a point to their comments? Are they trying to help or are they just having a bad day? Do you respect this person? Are they an authority on the subject? Should you value their feedback?


Learning how to be friends with criticism will help you grow as an individual, a stylist and a business person. By taking a positive and proactive approach to critical feedback you can be more sensitive to the needs of others, develop your skills faster and feel more confident.

So, next time you get criticized, take a deep breath and try using some of these tips. Own your mistakes and focus on how you grow from the experience. Repeat this any time you receive feedback and you’ll start to turn criticism into a positive tool to help you thrive.

P.S. Don’t try to make everybody happy. You can’t, so keep going and don’t let criticism stop you from doing what you’re passionate about.


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