However way we look at it, criticism is judgment, and most people don’t do well in managing or accepting either.
Perhaps only a micro percentage of the population can claim to have control over their bearings while being told what’s wrong with them.
The criticisms themselves may not sting as much as how it is delivered or who delivers it. Sometimes or ever so often, it’s the person at the receiving end who tends to blow things out of proportion.
However, it is important to recognize that not all criticisms are essentially true or hurtful. A lot of them might actually be helpful when assessed with an open mind, regardless of the manner by which it was made known to you.
One fact of life that many don’t seem to get is that we can’t please everybody. Not everyone will give us a standing ovation or a pat on the shoulder when we most deserve it. There will always be the doubters, the envious, the pessimists, and the natural critics.
We all have these characters in our homes, families, communities, jobs, civic clubs — you name it. While it’s not your life’s purpose to please such people at the expense of your own happiness, learning how to properly acknowledge their innate tendencies will help you respond to them better. Response, and not mere reaction, is the key that unlocks a healthier attitude in the face of crippling criticism.
Here are 25 simple yet rather useful ways to train ourselves to respond better:
1. Recognize the benefits of criticism.
Criticism can serve as the fertilizer that aids in our personal growth. Aside from teaching us to be humble, it also allows us to tap into different people’s perspectives. It serves as feedback that can help us improve how we conduct ourselves or perform a certain task moving forward.
Let people talk. It’s important to hear them out first. By listening, you will be able to evaluate what the criticism is really about. Take note of the words used. Maybe the person is just curious and not really criticizing. It’s important to listen before replying — we don’t want to worsen the situation by misunderstanding the intention behind it.
3. Identify if the criticism is constructive or destructive.
There are such things as good and bad criticisms, and it will make our lives so much easier to know how to distinguish between the two. Some criticisms are constructive, meaning they are designed to help you improve something. There’s always a lesson to learn or a realization to keep that makes you want to be a better person.
Destructive criticisms don’t work that way. They tend to tear people down rather than build them up, especially when the person who’s letting you have it is someone you highly respect or greatly love.
While not all constructive criticisms are delivered carefully wrapped and tied with a red bow, focus on what’s inside. See if there’s anything you can learn from it. Again, it’s how you perceive things, what you take away from these situations, and how you respond that are of most importance.
4. Don’t take criticisms personally. This is easier said than done because it is difficult to disassociate a criticism over a particular action, output, or behaviour from the person as a whole. We can’t always be on our best behaviour, and even when we are, critics are there. What then when we’re at our worst?
After sifting through what’s constructive and what isn’t, recognize which ones are merely targeted at something you said or did rather than who you are entirely.
5. Don’t lash back with anger and bitterness. Breathe in. Breathe out. Stay calm and evaluate the situation. Remaining calm and composed isn’t an act of submission. It means you are not letting your emotions take charge. A premature reaction will only make matters worse or result in you taking a well-meaning criticism negatively.
6. Don’t be defensive. Don’t feel that you need to always save face and defend yourself. Don’t feel that you have to clear yourself of any blame or fault. Again, listen and stay calm. Even if the criticism is destructive, just listen it out and don’t let it affect you. Let the person finish talking, and then move on.
7. Consider and accept your flaws. Accept the fact that you are not perfect. After listening, evaluate yourself. See if there was something you could have done better. Check your flaws from time to time. Even though everyone makes mistakes, what is important is that we learn from them and constantly challenge ourselves to do and be better every day.
8. Don’t blame others. Do not drag other people into the situation just to make yourself feel better or to absolve you of any fault. It often heightens tension and worsens the situation. When it’s a case of misunderstanding, allow yourself a different time to explain, especially when you feel your emotions approaching the red zone.
9. Apologize when you’re wrong.
When you know you’re wrong, sorry is your best friend. Humility tends to soften any hurt and offence. Being the first one to settle an issue and acting humbly even eliminates the need for criticism at times because you already expressed recognition over your faults.
10. Respond with grace.
This is an attitude that you can actually practice and master. Regardless of the situation, even if you’re on the critic’s side for a change, respond with grace — with a gracious manner and with gracious words This is a common trait of mature individuals. They are not easily shaken by the negative and can even react and respond in a kind and gracious manner.
11. Ask questions.
Do not be afraid to ask questions—especially open-ended ones. Ask for possible suggestions for improvement. This shows that you are sincere and interested to learn.
12. Be honest.
Honesty these days is extremely rare. People will try to do everything to cover up the magnitude of a fault to avoid taking responsibility. While you may be tempted to do otherwise, start pushing yourself toward honesty’s side. Lying only aggravates the situation and, when found out, causes many more problems.
13. Never accept abuse.
You don’t need to sit through an entire destructive session when the obvious objective is to attack you rather than help you. Even though it’s important to listen, you should be keen in discerning what not to take from people. If you discern the criticisms as abusive, you can point this out in a calm manner. If it continues, people can’t hold it against you for turning away.
14. Inject humor only when applicable.
This depends on who is giving the criticism. If this is someone you trust or share a good relationship with, injecting some appropriate humour can lighten the situation. Chances are the person at the other end isn’t comfortable delivering the criticism as well but has to for your own benefit.
15. Say thank you.
Again, respond graciously. Though criticisms may hurt, the lessons learned could last a lifetime or beyond. Be grateful to people who care enough to point out your mistakes. They could actually save you from creating more.
16. Look for similarities and patterns.
If you’re getting the same criticisms over and over again and from different people at that, then some serious personality check is in order. Improve on those recurring points. Our habits make up who we are. Don’t let an oversight or a stubborn behaviour define you.
17. Help others, too.
Help other people grow by giving them constructive feedback as well. Criticisms given in a kind manner in a safe and appropriate setting could mean the world to someone who’s exposed to the harsher equivalents. You may even be setting a standard for how to properly go about giving criticisms, thereby helping them more than you intended.
18. Unwind and destress.
All the thinking, processing, and keeping a tight hold on your self-control and bearings can get quite taxing. Don’t stay in that bubble, especially if you’re one to pore over details and emotions. End things on a happy note by taking time to relax and destress. I’ve learned that meditation does wonders in relaxing the mind.
19. Use criticisms as motivation.
Accepting and acknowledging criticisms are already big steps to personal growth. However, the best way to make the most out of the situation is actually doing something about them and taking the steps necessary to improve. Use the feedback as motivation in your journey.
20. Don’t try to please everybody.
As much as people hate conflict, it cannot be avoided. Our differences will clash from time to time, and bending over backwards trying to please everyone will only make you lose your individuality. Let the criticisms come if they will, and rise above it all.
21. Preserve relationships.
Relationships are so fragile that some people do away with the need for honest criticism completely. This isn’t healthy, as people tend to explode from all the bottled up emotions they are keeping inside. Having the understanding to agree to disagree when it comes to personal opinions keeps people from treading the fault line.
22. Don’t be afraid to fail.
As you journey through life, it’s a guarantee that you will make and encounter more mistakes. That’s okay, because these are exactly what you need to grow and learn. Failure should not be feared but treated as a catalyst for change.
23. Focus on your goals.
Don’t let the criticisms stop you from reaching your dreams. Remember your goals, and focus on them. Use the feedback as tools, road signs, a push, or a hand up that all lead you closer to where you want to go.
24. Let go of worry and anxiety.
Don’t carry criticisms like a burden over your shoulders, and don’t let your fear of them keep you from living an authentic life. Constantly being anxious of other people’s opinion will take more of a toll on you than the criticisms themselves. Don’t do that to yourself.
25. Notice points for improvement.
The ultimate goal of criticism after self-reflection is action. As we journey along life, we get to know ourselves better. This leads to noticing how we can improve before others point them out.
We’ve pretty much established how criticisms can play an essential role in helping us become who we want and need to be in the future. Practice handling them well and wield them to your advantage.