What Negative Reviews Really Tell Us

I recently traveled to Vieques, a small island off Puerto Rico, and found myself using Trip Advisor, searching for restaurant recommendations.

While touring I noticed a restaurant called Roy’s. Open from 9–1, conveniently located and with low prices, it would be perfect for breakfast or lunch.

While the Trip Advisor comments touted the beverages at Roy’s, the food got poor reviews. Curious, I stopped in to grab drinks.

Waiting to order I noticed a man sitting at the counter just finishing breakfast.

“How was it?” I asked.

“Good,” he said.

How good?” I probed, wondering if I should ignore the reviews and order breakfast.

With an awkward look, he said, “I enjoyed it.”

I revealed my nosiness was because of reviews I’d read, and was embarrassed to discover Mike was the owner. Trying to dig my way out, I said, “They have great things to say about your beverages!”

Mike defended his restaurant, saying the reviews were old and blaming the reviewers for being clueless to the local preferences and customs.

This made me curious because I’d done the research, and tasted the food at a few restaurants he slammed.

For the next several minutes, I listened as Mike defended Roy’s, even sharing negative comments I hadn’t read. “What do they expect for a $2 taco?” he asked.

Mike then lamented his customers ignoring the sign at the entrance that read, “Order at the bar before sitting.”

“They grab a table and wait to be served,” Mike shared. “Ultimately, they end up frustrated because they haven’t been waited on.”

I found myself remembering an experience I’d had on a flight, standing outside the restroom stretching and watching people struggle to understand how to open the door.

Frustrated, one flight attendant said, “I’ve seen so many people struggle with our door. We need to put a dot right here (pointing to the best spot to push) with the words push here.”

Passengers want to succeed in getting into the restroom — just as customers want their actions to result in an awesome experience — they simply may not know how. The easier the path to success, the better they’ll do.

The flight attendant focused on the solution, while Mike lost opportunities by complaining. I wanted to point out to Mike that he could stop being defensive and be innovative himself, by simply putting an ‘Order Here’ sign above the cash register.

Rather than protect and defend, perhaps he could listen and make adjustments, collaborate with his customers to get the results he wants.

“You came in despite the reviews,” Mike piped up.

“Yep,” I said, realizing he missed the fact I had only purchased what the reviewers raved about.

Whether in business, a career, or even at home, we get so wrapped up in defending ourselves against feedback that we forget to focus on what we want. Understood in context, feedback can become the stepping-stones they’re meant to be.

What are you striving to achieve? What does success look like to you? Are there people along the way who, through their input, can help you identify goals and reach that success?

Understand this and your reviews will serve to help, rather than hinder, you.

p.s. please post a comment and let me know your thoughts!

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