How to Handle Negative Reviews

Jai Long

April 12, 2020

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Hi guys, today’s episode is something I really enjoy talking about; how to handle negative reviews. As creative entrepreneurs, we create and sell our art. This can be hard to do in front of an audience, especially when we fail. You will experience negative reviews – you can’t please everybody. Not everyone has your best interests at heart and some might just be unhappy in their own lives. 

It’s not about the negative feedback though; it’s about how you react to it. That’s what I want to talk about today. How to turn a negative into a positive and not take it personally. I get positive and negative reviews daily, so I know a thing or two about them.

How We React to Negative Reviews

There are three main ways we react to a negative review. First, we ignore the review and pretend it never happened. Secondly, we tell the reviewer to go f**k themselves and get into a back and forth debate. And thirdly, we react instantly and take action, resolving the conflict with empathy and open conversation.


Constructive Criticism Vs. Negativity

I recently got a review of the podcast which wasn’t overly positive, but it didn’t come from a bad place. I looked at this review as constructive criticism because it’s telling me where a problem might lie. In this case, the reviewer found my podcast too scripted. I can learn from this, get better and grow. You need both positive and negative reviews to get to that place.


Two Types of Negative Reviewer

Let’s look at two types of people who might leave a negative review or feedback. One is from your fans. These are your clients, customers, or those who engage with your content. People who don’t have anything to do with your brand or aren’t invested in you are internet trolls. The way you react to these two people are totally different.

If I get an email or DM from a troll telling me they hate my podcast or Insta page, it doesn’t really affect me. It’s not someone who’s in my world or who I have a connection with. I ask myself the question, ‘is this shaking my truth?’ If not, I can easily ignore it and move on from it. The other type of negative review will come from a client or customer. When someone does this, there’s definitely a good reason behind it, as it takes courage to publicly shame someone.


Your Business as a Ship

A good exercise I often do in my workshops is to imagine your business as a ship. You need to disconnect yourself from your business. I am not Free the Bird Photography, even though I built it and I’m proud of it. When you separate yourself from your work, it helps with negative reviews. You won’t view them as a personal attack. Instead, I think about it as a problem that needs to be solved. There is a leak on my ship somewhere – and I have to fix it.


Why Do People Leave Bad Reviews?

The first reason is that people feel unheard for some reason. They want to leave you a review to make sure that their voice is heard. They didn’t get the value from you that they were expecting. This ties into the next reason: expectations were not met. That’s usually your fault for not setting expectations as this allows people to make up their own. In my workshops, the first day is about creativity, while the second is about business. I make sure to set these expectations right at the start so people know what’s happening. Another example: if you’re not able to respond to emails for a while, set an auto-response so people know what’s happening. 


My Personal Negative Reviews

I’ve had only two negative reviews on my Free the Bird Facebook page, and both have been pretty brutal. In the case of the first one, I was very, very busy.  I was so busy that I only took bookings from people who paid a deposit, which I thought was fair. This means that I would sometimes have to email couples and tell them that their provisional date was taken by a paying client. I was being reactive to the problem. I had to apologetically email a lovely couple and tell them that I wasn’t available for their provisional date because someone else came through with a deposit for the same day. Tragically, one of my best friend’s passed away that weekend, so I wasn’t in a good headspace when I got the negative review. Really bad timing. 

The review said I was arrogant and a scam artist, and that I didn’t give the couple enough time to make a decision. It was really hard to read, but it also made me realise that there was a big problem in the way I was booking people. They didn’t have a bad experience with me personally; they had a bad experience with a system on my ship. I apologised to the couple and shared the review on Facebook. From there, I had a big open discussion about how to fix the broken system on my ship.


The Second Bad Review

More recently, I got a second bad review that I shared on my social platforms. At the end of the day, the couple’s expectations weren’t met. It was a really hard wedding to shoot, but their expectations were almost untouchably high. Afterwards, they left me a harsh, really personal bad review. I had to get past the hurtful comments and look at the review with empathy. The couple weren’t being heard. I apologised for their experience with me and shared it on my socials. No business is perfect, but I’m not my business, so these bad reviews don’t shake me. I know deep down I’m doing my best.

I also had a negative review with my photobooth business, Heartbreak Hotel. This was a hard one to deal with. I talked to the couple personally, as they were accusing us of ruining their wedding (though I’m not sure how a photobooth could ruin a whole wedding). In this case, it turned out the Roman numeral prints on the photos were missing an ‘I’ and were the wrong date, even though the couple had approved them prior to the wedding. I couldn’t get through to the couple as they were screaming so much. In the end, I fixed the problem, but only after I allowed the couple to feel like they had been heard.


Negative Podcast Reviews

I get a few bad reviews for my podcast. There are three main reasons why people don’t like it. Firstly, educators think that I’m giving too much away. But that’s more to do with them than my content. Secondly, people think it’s too scripted. This is a valuable point, and it’s encouraging me to talk off the cuff more. Thirdly, people think my content is too basic; the total opposite to the first point. My point is, if you’re putting yourself out there, people will have an opinion on you and your work, and it’s not always positive. 


Questions to Ask Yourself 

When it comes to negative reviews, the key is to be unmovable and unshakable. You achieve this by being separate from your business and knowing the worth of your content. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself when reading a bad review. 

1 – What is the truth? Does this negativity undermine your truth? If you’re being authentic, why would this review shake you?

2 – What outcome do you want? How can you make the best of this situation. We can all turn a negative into a positive.

3 – How can I see this review in a different way? Whenever I get negative feedback, I look at it subjectively. I look for ways that it can grow my business.

4 – What can I be grateful for in this moment? Think about all you’ve built and all the fans you’ve gathered along the way. Don’t allow bad reviews to move you. 

Finally, remember that people who are doing big things with big ambitions will never bring you down. I call them high-frequency movers. You too can be one of these people. Don’t get petty or egotistic; try to be as selfless as possible. Be confident in your business and in yourself.


I hope some of these insights have helped you out. I now see negative reviews as positive; if you can train your mindset to look for the opportunities within them, you’ll be able to as well.


Thank you so much for tuning in and checking out the podcast, guys. See you next time!


Episode Sponsor

This episode is brought to you by the guys over at PepperStorm, an awesome copywriting team who I have used across all my businesses for years. If you need some killer copywriting, get in touch and use the code: MAKEYOURBREAK to get $100 off when you buy one of their packages.


Meet the Author

Obsessively wordsmithing and hyping the living daylights out of anything and anyone, Mel is our word nerd and coach from Melinda Harcourt Copywriting.

You’ll also find her regularly dropping hot website/ biz tips inside the Business Map and yelling at people for downplaying their wins (“big” or “small”, every win is still a win).




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