Don’t take offence, take action

Yes, a lot of criticism is not delivered in a positive way – the positive part can come from using these complaints to improve your business. TIM SHARP

Timothy Sharp Happiness Institute

By Tim Sharp

I read an interesting article recently in which reference was made to a phenomenon whereby people are setting up websites detailing what they don’t like about (mostly) big companies.

It’s referred to as (and please excuse my language) the Google Sucks Index, and apparently if you enter a search term within Google followed by the word “sucks” you’ll find a plethora, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands, of comments expressing disgruntlement and dissatisfaction.

On a side note, and before I proceed with my thoughts, it’s interesting to me that there’s no Google Loves Index in which you can be directed towards websites specifically created to document all the things people love about various companies!

Anyway, and back to my point, if you search for “Wal-Mart sucks” you’ll find over 150,000 results; search for “Disney sucks” and you’ll find over half a million; search for “Google sucks” and you’ll find more than three quarters of a million complaints.

The point for companies is not necessarily that some people might be unhappy with your products or services (this has always been the case) but that for the first time in history, they can publicise their thoughts (and in some cases ravings) and make them instantly available to millions of other people. As I’m sure you can imagine, many businesses are not too thrilled about this.

At the same time, however, some companies (including Dell, the computer maker) have turned this around and are using this relatively new phenomenon to their advantage; instead of taking these criticisms to heart, they’re taking constructive action. In short, they’re taking customers’ comments on board and integrating their feedback into new product development and into improvements across all areas of their business.

Now this got me thinking, as I have a want to do – why don’t we all do this?

Now none of us really like criticisms (even when phrased in so-called “constructive” terms) but how many of you stew and grumble and just get upset when someone (either a work colleague or a friend or a family member) makes a less than positive comment? What does this achieve?

In contrast, and if we learn from Dell, what would it take and what would the benefits be if we were able to carefully considered these comments (which isn’t the same as liking them or even, in some cases, agreeing with them) and then tried to do whatever we could to improve ourselves as a result of the comments; learn something from the suggestions; or even try to make something positive out of the situation?

The basic tenets of positive psychology, and something practised well by the happiest and most successful of people, do not suggest that we should ignore all negatives and simplistically just focus on positives.

Happiness and optimism are not about denying problems or burying your head in the sand pretending you and the world are perfect. Rather, what we know about happy people is that they do focus more on positives but in addition, they face the cold hard realities of the day and deal with them constructively, actively, positively.

So why don’t you learn from the Google Sucks Index and take a good hard look at any and all of the criticisms levelled against you in recent times (big and small) and consider what you might be able to do to turn these into positives.

If you’re struggling to do this on your own, then don’t be afraid to reach out to those around you (a good friend, a family member, or possibly even an independent and objective professional, like a coach) and work towards turning what sucks into what will make for success.

And finally, feel free to post below examples of when you’ve taken this approach and it’s been of benefit.


Dr. Sharp’s latest book (published August 2008) is “100 Ways to Happiness: a Guide for Busy People” (Penguin). You can find out more about corporate programs, presentations, and coaching services at and You can also ask him questions using the Comments panel below.

For more Dr Happy blogs, click here.



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