Who Gets to Criticize You, Anyway?

Whether you’re a writer, author, entrepreneur, or traditional businessperson, you are subject to criticism in the form of comments and reviews. Recently, one of my friends who writes fun romance novels posted that she got her first 1-star review on Amazon.

My response was to tell her she’d finally made it! I mean, you’re not a “legit author” until you get a bad review, right? You’re not a “real business person” until you get a 1-star review on Yelp, right? Right!

While it might seem easy for me to put a positive spin on it (and it usually is), I know how hard it is to turn off negative comments or criticism try as we might.

Criticism isn’t always about you. I’ve gotten tons of criticism over the years only to come to find out later some of it was not even a little about me (some of it was, but that’s a subject for another post).

Everyone can criticize, it is a fundamental human right to speak our minds. Equally as important: it is also our right to not listen!

I suggest applying my theory on the “Levels of Permission” to each person to determine who you are going to listen to…criticism or praise.

I developed my theory on the different Levels of Permission because in my business coaching practice, I observed many of my clients taking the opinions of others to heart, even when they weren’t people that mattered to them very much.

In addition, I observed a few people very closely who had attained a level of fame or fortune let the praise they received go straight to their…egos.

It isn’t a good idea to give someone’s praise or criticism too much weight either way, unless they are uniquely qualified to level their opinion at you.

The Levels of Permission:

It is incredibly important, especially when focusing on developing your Prosperous Writer Mindset, to take into consideration whose opinion should matter. If you tend to be a people pleaser, it is possible no matter who is dishing out opinions and advice, to take it as gospel. It would serve you well to cast a keen eye at each individual and categorize them (and their opinions!).

Level 1: I don’t know you, like you, or trust you. What you say means little or nothing. Level 1 is reserved for complete strangers, the guy at the other table in Starbucks, and the person behind you in traffic. You do not know them, and you have no business listening to an opinion they provide positive or negative. Your response to anything they say is, Thank you. Nothing more, nothing less.

When you receive a review or comment from a person you don’t know, even a glowing 5-star review, you can be glad you got another positive review because you know positive, third-party validation is great for your book or your business. When you receive a one-star review, or feedback that your work is horrible, you must not take that judgment personally. You must not give positive or negative reviews or input any more energy than “Thank you.” and here’s why:

You don’t know them, and they don’t know you. The person giving the review is judging you solely on their perception of your writing. Your writing is separate from you, outside of you, and two people can read the exact same words and have diametrically opposed opinions. These same two people can read your writing or do business with you: one will love it and say it changed their life, the other will say it was horrible. The same exact work.

Perhaps you can see why keeping your emotions steady is important?

Keep in mind two people can see the exact same set of facts and circumstances. One will say, “That’s 100% the truth!” and the other will cry, “Fake news!”

Level 2: I know you a little, don’t like or trust you very much (yet). Your opinion means very little. Remember, I’m talking either way here, folks. An effusive endorsement can, and should, get the same level of weight as a scathing review. Level 2 is like Level 1—your emotions should barely make a blip in one direction or the other.

If you’ve had any interaction (in person, through email or social media) with a Level 2, they may feel they have “the right” to give their opinion, let them but only give it a little weight (if any).

Level 3: I know you, like you, and trust you some. Your opinion is neither heavily considered nor discounted completely. Level 3 folks are people you know more than you don’t know them. You have probably met their spouses, kids, and know what they do for a living. They seem like nice people, you know you like them, and trust they aren’t serial killers (but let’s be real here: you don’t really know!).

This group isn’t a part of your inner circle, though, so this group of people consists of co-workers you’re not particularly close to, people in social, religious, or professional groups, maybe even a relative or two. You know them well enough to ask about their recent vacation, like their Facebook status, and perhaps grab a bite to eat with them from time to time.

But (!) you don’t need to be losing any sleep or feel over the moon when they express their opinion. Those in Levels 1-3 allow their perception of you to color their opinion. They give themselves the right to share their view of you and your work. You, in turn, need to give yourself permission not to listen, or, not give it any more weight than it truly deserves.

A Level 3 person will most likely like your work if they like you. If they don’t, they probably won’t say, or won’t admit they read your book. They know, like, and trust you enough to not express a negative thought if they have one.

Level 4: I know, like, and trust you a lot. If I killed someone, I’d call you to help me hide the body. THIS person’s opinion matters! But they probably can’t (or don’t) judge your work. These are your closest friends and family, your inner circle, those with whom you share a good part of your innermost thoughts, feelings, and desires. You trust them implicitly, and they support you unconditionally.

Because they probably aren’t writers or aren’t in your profession as well, consider their feedback with one question: Are they someone I should listen to and why? Follow it up with: Do they have all the information, skills, or training needed to give me constructive feedback?

It all comes down to how you feel about yourself and your work! Frankly, you should feel great about yourself—you’re a person, on this planet, you’re breathing, and I think you’re wonderful. Oh, wait, unless I’m your Level 4, that last part doesn’t actually matter!

Keep in mind what you do for a living is just a small piece of your overall puzzle. Placing too much of your identity in your work, or in anyone else’s opinion, can provide more heartache than encouragement.

When you receive feedback, input, or simply someone’s opinion, give it the weight it deserves based on how close that person truly is to you. Appropriately categorizing someone and their opinion can help you remain steady as well as avoid the emotional heartache and upheaval it might otherwise provide.

In addition to carefully considering the input of others, keeping your emotions on an even keel is helpful.

When in doubt, remember you can always fall back on this little gem:

If I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you!


Thanks for reading! I’ve written more about this topic in my new book, Stop Trying So F*cking Hard, and if this article resonates with you, the book just might as well!

I’d love to hear what you think (and how you handle feedback and reviews (good, bad, or indifferent), so please leave your thoughts in the comment section below!


Your health, happiness, success and overall prosperity begin and ends with what you think, say, and do–or in this case what you do, read, and listen to, so try these on for size:

~Prosperous Reading: Thank & Grow Rich by Pam Grout

~Prosperous Marketing: Using Back Matter to Sell More Books

~Prosperous Mindset: If you’re not a member of the Prosperity for Writers Mastermind Group on Facebook, please join us (and invite your friends)!


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