No one enjoys receiving criticism, no matter how valid or constructive it may be, but dealing with criticism positively is an important life skill. It’s inevitable that at some point in your life, you will be criticised. Be it professionally or personally, there will always be people who criticise you. Some may do it out of spite, but the most common form of criticism is from more experienced people who genuinely want you to improve. Sometimes it will be difficult to accept – but that all depends on your reaction. You can either use criticism in a positive way to improve, or in a negative way that can lower your self-esteem and cause stress, anger or even aggression. So, what should you do to handle criticism like a pro?
Understand the difference - constructive vs. destructive
Learning to recognise the difference between the two can help you deal with any criticism you may receive. Although both forms are challenging your ideas, character or ability, destructive criticism can have negative effects on your self-esteem and confidence, and can also be deliberately malicious and hurtful. Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is designed to point out your mistakes, but also show you where and how improvements can be made. It is not self-serving; it offers suggestions for improvement and creates useful dialogue.
Respond rationally and calmly. Try to respond to the suggestions not the tone of the criticism. Instead of being defensive, be honest. Share your reasons, acknowledge the other person’s points if there’s any validity, and come to a rational conclusion. Or stay silent. If you can’t respond with grace, then just don’t respond. Silence is a much better response than anger, defensiveness or quitting.
Don’t take it personally and take out the positives
You may have heard the phrase “take criticism seriously, not personally” before; while this is certainly far easier said than done, it really is the key to dealing with criticism in a healthy way. When people criticise us directly, we should feel they are not criticising our real self. Generally speaking, there is usually some truth in criticism, even when it appears to be given out of spite and bitterness. Take a step back and try to see things from the other person’s point of view, perhaps ask a friend for their honest opinion – use criticism wisely and as a learning experience. Choose to hear feedback differently by re-framing the way you take feedback from others. Develop a thick skin by always looking to the bigger picture in any difficult situation.
Know your insecurities
Learning to receive false criticism—feedback that has no constructive value—without losing your confidence is a must if you want to do big things in life. The more attention your work receives, the more criticism you’ll have to field. When someone criticises you, it shines a light on your own insecurities. And most of the time, our insecurities are the root cause of our irrational actions and reactions. Develop the ability to recognise and understand your emotions, and to use that information to guide decision-making. This will help you to move forward after criticism, even if you don’t feel incredibly confident, ensures that no isolated comment will prevent you from seizing your goals.
And finally, realise, and accept the benefits of criticism
Criticism opens you up to new perspectives and ideas that you may not have considered. Your critics give you an opportunity to practice active listening and the chance to practice forgiveness when you come up against harsh critics.
It’s helpful to learn how to sit with the discomfort of an initial emotional reaction instead of immediately acting or retaliating. Criticism gives you the chance to foster problem-solving skills, which isn’t always easy when you’re feeling sensitive, self-critical, or annoyed with your critic. Interpreting someone else’s feedback is an opportunity for rational thinking.
Criticism presents an opportunity to choose peace over conflict. Fielding criticism well helps you mitigate the need to be right. Your critics give you an opportunity to challenge any people-pleasing tendencies. Criticism gives you the chance to teach people how to treat you, and certain pieces of criticism teach you not to sweat the small stuff.