A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him. – Sidney Greenberg
The Truth About Criticism
All of us at one point or another have experienced criticism of some sort throughout our lives. Whether this criticism comes from your parents, siblings, friends, coworkers, bosses, managers, teachers, kids or from people who just seem to be on a mission to make your life miserable, one truth remains: criticism is simply an unavoidable part of life. In fact, the only way to avoid being criticized is to begin living as a recluse — separated from the world. However, even then you will probably have a tendency to criticize yourself.
You will find, time and again, that the people who receive the most criticism are the ones who are doing something new, different and risky. In fact, if you’re doing something that goes against other people’s beliefs, rules or values, then you are naturally opening yourself up to criticism. And yet doing something new, different and risky is essentially what you need to do to get ahead in life and make a mark in this world. In fact, the more success you attain and the more progress you make along your journey, the higher the likelihood that you will need to deal with some form of criticism on a consistent basis.
It is therefore important that you don’t see criticism as something that must be avoided at all costs. Criticism is actually a part of life’s learning process. It helps you learn more about yourself and more about how the world perceives your decisions, choices, behaviors, and actions.
The Incredible Value of Criticism
Criticism has tremendous value for your growth and development as a human being. For starters, criticism will help provide you with new insights and perspectives that you might not have considered on your own. These new perspectives will give you valuable feedback that you might use to adjust your course or to change your mind about some of the decisions you’re making.
Because criticism often makes you question your choices and decisions, it can, therefore, be the catalyst that can help you to develop your problem-solving skills. Consider for a moment that the criticism you receive from someone alerts you to a weakness in your character or a flow in your plan of action moving forward. Instead of rejecting this criticism, come to accept it as something that you can use to help guide you down the right path.
Not only will criticism help you to correct your approach, it can also actually alert you to potential opportunities that you may not have known existed. In fact, a little bit of criticism will immediately get you questioning your current choices and decisions. This questioning process then leads you to consider other possibilities, which likewise draws you to new opportunities that you never even took into consideration. So in a way, criticism helps you to stay alert and open to all perspectives and possibilities that may exist.
Finally, you are not always going to get what you want, and you are never going to please everyone every time. So if nothing else, ongoing criticism will have a tendency to toughen you up, while at the same time helping you to stay humble and grounded in reality. This toughness will strengthen your character by helping build resilience in the face of adversity. On the other hand, your humility will keep you open to possibilities and different perspectives as you work to overcome life’s difficulties.
Reasons Why People May Criticize You
Given the fact that you can’t please everyone; given the fact that you simply can’t control what other people think about your behavior, decisions and actions; given the fact that you are not perfect, and given the fact that you are constantly in the process of learning and growing, it’s easy to see why other people might criticize you. And yet, it’s important to understand that most people are not out to get you. There are actually valid reasons why they might throw criticism in your direction.
People might criticize you because they are simply trying to help you. They have very good intentions. Yes, of course, these intentions might be misguided, but they are criticizing you for the right reasons. They honestly believe that their criticism can help you. However, people do make mistakes, and their criticism is not always valid. Despite this fact, it is still important to stay open to the possibilities and learn from every criticism you receive.
Here are the four major reasons why someone might criticize you:
- They have different life experiences, beliefs, and opinions that they would like to share with you.
- They are genuinely trying to help you make a better decision because they care about your well-being.
- They are simply having a bad day and letting off steam seems like the most intelligent thing to do.
- They are out to get you and will do everything within their power to make your life absolutely miserable.
It’s important to keep in mind that other people’s criticism is always clouded by their limiting beliefs, fears, and insecurities. All of these factors will influence the type of criticism they give you.
At other times criticism comes down to nothing more but a misunderstanding — a communication breakdown. The other person makes assumptions and generalizations about your choices and decisions, and as a result, they jump to quick conclusions without understanding the full picture. In such instances, you must make sure that you are clear with your communication so that you can help the other person better understand your situation.
How to Handle Criticism in an Optimal Way
If you desire to be open to the possibility of learning from the criticism you receive, then it’s absolutely paramount that you take criticism with grace and humility at all times. Here are some suggestions that will help you get started on this journey:
Don’t Take Things Personally
When you receive criticism, it’s important that you never take things personally. Whether it’s just or unjust — criticism is always someone else’s opinion. They are sharing their own personal perspectives and views of the situation that may or may not be aligned with the way you do or view things. Responding emotionally and defensively by throwing insults back at the other person will never do you any good and will deny you the opportunity of learning from the criticism.
It’s important to show gratitude for any constructive criticism you receive. In fact, show the other person that you are willing and open to learning from this experience; that you are ready to take responsibility for your actions, and that you are open to further suggestions without judgment. In this way, you will create an open environment for communications, and for discussing possibilities. The other person will also be more open to your ideas, perspectives, and suggestions. This will often result in a conversation built upon problem-solving, rather than on who is right or wrong.
Ask for Clarification
In order to avoid any misunderstandings, it’s critical that you ask the other person for clarification about their criticism. Ask them:
What exactly do you mean?
Where exactly do you think I could improve?
These questions will ensure that the other person isn’t making any assumptions about you or the situation, or jumping to unnecessary conclusions.
Responding to Criticism
Before responding to the criticism and sharing your own opinions and perspectives about the situation, it’s important that you stay calm and open to the possibilities that you might be wrong, or that there could be another — maybe even better — way to do things.
While conversing with the other person put your critical thinking hat on, and think about the criticism as well as the person who is giving the criticism thoughtfully. Ask yourself:
Who is this person?
Why did they criticize me?
Are they trying to help me?
What facts are they referring to?
Is their criticism just an opinion?
Do they understand the full story?
What experiences have they had?
Is their criticism valid?
Did I possibly make a mistake?
Did I overlook something?
What could I potentially learn from this situation?
How could I possibly do things differently next time?
These questions will provide you with a platform you can work from that will help you to take full advantage of the criticism you just received. By separating the facts from the fiction, you will be in a better position to make the best decision possible moving forward.
How to Handle Yourself When You’re Being Criticised
At times the criticism you receive may be rather difficult to take. If this criticism isn’t valid, then you really have nothing to worry about. However, if the criticism is even slightly valid, then it can be hurtful and can potentially wound your pride. In such instances, you need to be ready to overcome this criticism and not allow it to affect other aspects of your life. Here are some suggestions:
Detach Yourself Emotionally
After receiving criticism, it’s absolutely paramount that you detach yourself emotionally from the experience.
The only way you will successfully overcome and potentially learn from this criticism, is to view it from an intellectual, rather than from an emotional perspective. To do this, begin viewing the criticism from a third person’s perspective. This person is removed from the situation and can, therefore, make sense of things in a detached way.
Another way to remove your emotions from the situation is to separate yourself from it with humor. Watch a funny movie, read some hilarious jokes, or talk to a friend who can make you laugh. The laughter you experience here will help you to feel more at ease about the criticism, and this will, therefore, allow you to think about it in a detached way.
Spend Time Reflecting
Spend some quiet time reflecting on the criticism you just received. Ask yourself:
How do I feel about this criticism?
Do I feel comfortable or uncomfortable with the criticism? Why?
What does this say about me?
Any discomfort you feel about another person’s criticism could very well indicate an ounce of truth contained within their critical words. However, it may also indicate a lack of self-belief. The criticism you received may not have been valid, however, because you have insecurities, you are now starting to doubt your personal strengths and abilities moving forward. It is therefore critical at this stage that you pinpoint whether your discomfort is stemming from a valid criticism or from your insecurities.
Consider Getting a Second Opinion
If your insecurities are getting in your way, then it’s absolutely paramount that you get a second opinion. Go out there and speak with a variety of people you trust and ask them for their feedback. Maybe they are of the same opinion as you, or maybe they agree with the criticism. Either way, you will have more information to work with to help you make a better decision moving forward.
Let’s look at it this way. If other people share your opinion, then this will help you to put your insecurities at ease, and therefore successfully overcome the criticism you received. However, if other people also provide you with constructive feedback, then you must seriously consider that you might not be on the right path.
Use Criticism for Inspiration
Whether the criticism is valid or not, it should inspire you to work harder, to persist for longer, and to prove other people’s opinions invalid. In fact, use criticism as a tool to help you boost your performance and levels of motivation and determination moving forward. You can either make it work for you, if not, then it will work against you. The choice is yours to make.
How to Give Constructive Criticism
Graciously accepting and learning from the criticism you receive is only one side of the coin. You must also be able to give criticism to other people in a way that will help empower them moving forward. This is especially relevant for parents, teachers, and people in a position of authority. However, it also applies when you’re chatting with friends, siblings, and co-workers. Your criticism can either raise their level of performance, self-esteem, and awareness, or it can deflate them emotionally. The choices you make will be critical to the final outcome. Here are some suggestions:
Show Good Intentions
Always show the other person that your criticism has good intentions and that you have their best interests in mind. Ask yourself:
How will the other person benefit from my criticism?
Show the other person that you understand them, and that you can relate to what they’re going through. In fact, the other person must know that you are not perfect yourself and that you also make mistakes and terrible blunders. In this way, the other person will let their guard down and be more open to constructive suggestions.
Be Honest with Your Criticism
It’s important that you don’t sugarcoat things. Be honest and real with the other person. They deserve to know the truth, even if it’s only your truth and opinion. They may even thank you for your honesty.
During these instances, you must stay calm. It’s important to also be kind, polite and very specific — consistently encouraging the other person. Also keep in mind that you yourself might be wrong, or that you don’t quite understand the full picture or situation. For this very reason, it’s important that you stay open and that you are equally willing and prepared to learn from this experience.
Praise Before and After Criticizing
When it comes to criticism, it’s important to understand that we are all emotionally fragile creatures. And as such we are prone to make irrational decisions when our emotions get in the way.
One way to prevent the other person from getting emotionally caught up in an unpleasant experience is to give them praise before and also after your criticism.
When you give the other person praise before you criticize them, this gets the conversation started on the right track, and immediately boosts their self-confidence. Then the criticism comes and potentially wounds their pride. However, you then finish with more praise, which helps put a positive spin on things, and leaves the other person feeling on a high.
This is often referred to as the sandwich technique, where you praise, criticize then praise again.
It’s Just Your Opinion
Explain to the other person that you are only sharing your own opinion and perspective on the situation. However, if your opinion is a fact, then be sure to share these facts with the other person. The person must know the truth. The truth might be exactly what they need to shake up their choices and decisions moving forward.
Frame Criticism as a Suggestion
Many people are likely to put their guard up the moment someone criticizes them. This instantly makes them defensively-minded, and as a result, they might not be willing to accept your constructive criticism. In such instances, it’s important that you frame your criticism as nothing more than a suggestion that can help the other person make better choices and decisions moving forward.
Likewise, the suggestions you make must never be targeted at the person’s character, but rather at their behavior. You are making suggestions to help them change their behavior and not to change themselves. If the other person feels that you are attacking them personally, then your criticism will not be well received.
In order for this to work, it’s important that you use non-threatening body language throughout this process. Your open body language will make them feel more at ease within your presence, and as a result, they will be more receptive to your suggestions.
Present a Solution
There is absolutely no point in giving criticism if you’re not able to provide the other person with a solution. Without a solution, you will simply leave them feeling empty and useless. However, with a solution at hand, you will help empower them to make better decisions moving forward.
While providing someone with constructive criticism it’s paramount that you never make assumptions, that you never criticize in public, and that you never criticize a person’s character. These are the three primary criticism traps that many people fall into. These are also the things that will make the person you’re criticizing resent you. As a result, your criticism will probably have no positive impact, and may, in fact, make the situation even worse.
Be wary of these criticism traps, and avoid them at all costs.
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 4 Positive Ways to Deal with Criticism @ Goodlife Zen
- 6 Tips for Handling Criticism @ World of Psychology
- 7 Tips for Handling Criticism @ The Happiness Project
- 9 Reasons Why Criticism Rocks @ Personal Excellence
- A Five Step Plan for Dealing with Criticism @ Live Bold and Bloom
- Constructive Criticism is a Sign of Your Potential @ Tiny Buddha
- Do You Take Criticism Personally @ A Daring Adventure
- How to Handle Criticism: 5 Helpful Steps @ The Positivity Blog
- How to Take Criticism and Reframe it as Support @ Sid Savara
- Overcome Taking Criticism Personally @ Pick the Brain