When someone gives you criticism on how you do something, what you should wear or how you should work, how do you take it? Does it cause you to stop and assess your own behavior or does it send you into a tailspin?
A lot of us have a difficult time handling criticism with grace. Feeling criticized can feel like a deep burn to who you are as a person, and can create low self-confidence and resentments. The reality is that we will all face criticism throughout our lives. The better you can get at handling it, and actually making the criticism work for you, the better off you will be in your personal and professional relationships.
Types of Criticism
When we talk about criticism, we can divide it into two distinct types: constructive and destructive. If your goal is to learn to handle criticism with grace, you should learn to recognize the difference between the two. Knowing the origin of the criticism can dictate how you handle it, and how seriously you should consider it.
Constructive: As you can probably guess from the name, constructive criticism is meant to ultimately build you up. A person who provides constructive criticism may point out an error, a flaw or other “negative” trait. But they also provide information on why it’s impacting the situation and how you can make improvements. Constructive criticism should be considered a positive. Sure, it might sting at first, but it truly comes from a place of care.
Destructive: Destructive criticism on the other hand typically comes from a negative place. Oftentimes, a person will give you destructive criticism out of anger, resentment, feeling threatened or the desire to cause you pain. Other times, it can just be pure carelessness and thoughtlessness. Either way, this kind of criticism can cause deep pain and wound your self-esteem.
If you can determine where the criticism is coming from, a positive, constructive place or a negative, destructive place, you can choose whether there is value in heeding it at all.
4 Tips for Handling Criticism with Grace
Remain calm and really listen.
Responding with anger never helps a situation. Even though it can feel almost impossible not to get defensive or spit out your own dose of criticism, refrain from overreacting. Instead, remain calm and take deep breaths to help ensure you keep your emotions in control. Allow the other person to speak their mind. Really listen to what they are saying, rather than formulating your own comebacks.
Take time to process the criticism.
You do not have to respond right away. In fact, it is better to take some time to process the criticism and cool off. Even if you just wait a few minutes or a few breaths, taking some time can prevent you from reacting in a way that would escalate the situation. You may decide to take more time, like several days, to take any kind of action. For many people, the time helps to make clear how they should respond, and very often they decide it’s not even worth a response.
Consider the positive aspects of the criticism.
Instead of stewing about the perceived slight, consider if there are any positives that you can take away from the criticism. While it may be a hard pill to swallow, the comment by a loved one, boss or trusted co-worker may have some value that you can learn from. Is this constructive or destructive? Is this from a person I respect and whose opinions I value or from someone with other motives?
Take the good and the bad…and then move on.
Whether you determine that the criticism you have received is valuable or not, it is best to accept it, take action if required and then move on. Focusing too much of your time and attention on criticism can be tough on your mental health. Use it to your advantage and protect your self-esteem and confidence. If you recognize that you are unable to get a comment off of your mind, talk to a good friend or coworker. Share the criticism with them to get their honest feedback on the validity of the comment. Sometimes this can help assuage your concerns and help you get past it.
What tips do you have for handling criticism at home, in social settings or in the workplace?