I’m embarrassed it took me this long to figure this out.

This is perhaps the simplest idea I’ve ever had about criticism.

When you read it, you will immediately think, “Duh, that’s so obvious. It’s a good thing your grey hair makes you look smart.”

I agree, this idea is going to be very simple. Here it is:

If you want to feel better about the criticism you receive, change the word “review” to “opinion.”

These two words have very different implications, but the waters have been muddied.

A few years ago, Amazon created “Customer reviews” for each product. I love this feature and use it every time I shop. The problem is that the word “review” has a lot of baggage.

Historically speaking, a review was made by someone educated. A movie critic wrote a review. A book critic wrote a review. A newspaper editor wrote a review. Normal folks, like you and I, wrote opinion pieces or letters to the editor.

The word “review” might not have been hallowed, but it did carry weight. On Amazon, when you see the “Editorial review” section, you know that Publisher’s Weekly thought long and hard about the review they gave a book. They spent decades building a reputation and by putting their name on a product have indicated that something significant has occurred.

Then you scroll down a few inches, see “Customer reviews,” and assume the same thing about those reviews as you did the editorial.

Imagine if the label was, “Customer opinions” instead? Would you read it differently? Would you make purchase decisions because of the opinions of strangers? Would an opinion sway you less than a review? I think it would.

Instead of thinking, “Oh no, someone has reviewed what I created and their words must be the final say,” you’d have an easier time saying, “That’s just one person’s opinion.”

Even if you don’t write a book, the belief in the authority of strangers has permeated every part of the Internet. People leaving comments on your blog, responses to your tweets or feedback on your Facebook wall carries more weight than it should.

When you pick a restaurant because a stranger you’ve never met gave you an opinion online, something interesting has happened. Maybe Bill134 hates sushi and gave that sushi restaurant a bad review because they refused to serve a grown man chicken fingers. (I hate going to dinner with Bill134.) That’s not Bill134’s review of the restaurant, that’s Bill134’s opinion.

Criticism is an opinion, not a review.

If you want to get better at handling criticism, call it what it is, an opinion.

[Tweet “If you want to get better at handling criticism, call it what it is, an opinion.”]

Some will be bad. Some will be good. Either way, they’re just opinions.

P.S. Want to love what you do for a living? Read this.