The other day I was having dinner with my parents at an outdoor café when a loud man started talking with his family. Imagine my surprise when he belted out my grandfather’s name followed by some interesting adjectives.

Although we couldn’t hear all of the details, my mom, step-dad and I got wide eyed and really quiet as we wondered who they were and what they were talking about. As the conversation became more colorful, we became more curious.

While it’s true that my grandfather is quite a character, most of what we heard was completely untrue.

Anyway, I wanted to get up and say something but I didn’t know what to say.

Instead, my 6’2″ dad got up, walked over to the table and said, “Hi. Small world. I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation. I’m the son-in-law of the man you’re talking about and this is his daughter and granddaughter…And, everything you’re saying is completely untrue.”

I wish you could have seen the looks on their faces. But I digress…

So, my dad continued the conversation in a cordial tone. After a few minutes of clearing the air he ended with an invitation, “Oh, in a few weeks I’m having a book signing for my new book “Still Standing.” It’s about the remarkable healing journey of a soldier who lost his legs in Iraq. You’re welcome to come to the book signing if you’d like.”

I must say I was pretty proud of my step-dad. It takes guts to confront a situation like that.

Besides, he’d given me great material for my ezine. Here’s what made an impression on me:

Success Can Draw Criticism

It’s unfortunate, but true, that the more public (and successful) you become in your work the more likely you are to attract criticism and judgment, as well as the false accusations of jealous competitors or people who simply don’t like you.

So I shouldn’t have been too surprised when I heard someone criticizing my grandfather. He was a shrewd and well known businessman, and even though he was a character, he believed in excellence and his business succeeded as a result. Sometimes he drew criticism and judgments because of it.

But he’s not alone. Presidents Bush and Obama experience this. Deepak Chopra experiences this. Oprah experiences this.

And you might experience this too if you become (or are) a public figure or do something unique with your life. It’s a scary possibility, but the good news is that when you handle the circumstances with grace you may be able to balance out or neutralize what’s being said about you.

The Best Way to Handle Criticism

My step-dad could have gone over to the table behind me and yelled, “You have no idea what you’re talking about, you idiot!” But instead he was friendly and honest. He simply introduced himself to let the guy know he was a bit misinformed.

In other words, my step-dad didn’t ignore the situation and hope it went away. He confronted it head on, but he didn’t belittle the man or react in an unpleasant way. This method of confrontation spoke volumes about his character.

Criticism and judgments can get out of hand, quickly. Left unaddressed they can turn into rumors that build momentum and take on a life of their own.

Sometimes it’s important to address criticisms right away. If negative rumors start to spread about you or your work they can ruin your reputation and your ability to create the life you desire.

Of course, the way you address criticism says a lot about your character. If you handle the situation quickly and gracefully you’re more likely to turn a potentially damaging situation into a helpful situation, one that lets the world know you’re a smart service provider who cares about your work.

Shameless Self-Promotion

The most surprising part of the evening was when my step-dad invited the guy to his book signing party. Strangely, the invitation naturally flowed in the conversation.

Many of us could learn a thing or two from my step-dad. I call his marketing style “shameless self-promotion” because I sense he isn’t self-conscious about sharing about his new book, and it shows. Since I’ve been in Minnesota he’s secured several radio, TV and newspaper interviews.

How did he do it?

He tells every single person he comes into contact with about his book.

He’s done a few public speaking gigs and will do more, all focusing on the book.

He has a Facebook page and has posted videos and links to the interviews.

Essentially, he’s raised a lot of buzz and expectation about the book, and it’s working.

So those are three important things I noticed during that unusual evening. To summarize:

1. Criticism Happens

2. Handling it with grace is important

3. Practicing shameless self-promotion might just help you grow somewhere greater!

Until we meet again, here’s to growing somewhere great!