How to Handle Criticism

Let’s face it. Criticism stings. When your boss or spouse tells you what you are doing wrong or where you need to improve, how you take feedback can enhance or hinder your progress.


Here are three major principles on how to make the best of criticisms.

Abandon your pride. We must first understand why we bristle at criticism. Pride is not necessarily evil. In this case, our aversion to criticism likely springs from the desire to see ourselves – or be seen as – the perfect person, one that makes no mistakes and basking in accolade. When we hear comments to the contrary, it bursts this bubble and we recoil.


The subtle evidence of pride is to feel deflated. People in this category harbor no resentment to the critic, but beat themselves up. They mope, “How could I be such a bonehead and make this mistake?” Paradoxically, while this sounds like humility, it is really wounded self-ego.


Adopt a learning attitude. To say that “we should let go of our pride” is easier said than done. The next key strategy is to adopt a learning attitude. Admit that we still have a lot to learn. Therefore, when we receive a negative evaluation, start by apologizing for your wrong. Then, listen and learn where you went wrong.


Some people don’t want to ask questions for fear that they will be seen as dum-dums or even incompetent. But the only stupid question is the one you should have asked but didn’t. Worse, if you give the impression of being a “know it all,” you will discourage others from helping and coaching you.


Assume the best motives from your critic. Let’s imagine that you are driving your car in the expressway. Another driver suddenly cuts into your lane. You slam on the brakes and blare your horn. You fume and curse the other driver for being such a reckless idiot.


But suppose you discover that he is rushing a loved one to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. I bet your attitude will change.

This technique is called “reframing.” How you understand a situation has a bearing on your emotional response to that situation. The next time someone criticizes you, don’t see him as someone who is “out to get you.” Rather, choose to believe that the critic wants to develop you, whether professionally or personally.


So when you are criticized, don’t become a war freak or throw a pity-party. Thank the critic and find the kernel of truth in the feedback. Then, improve. This attitude clearly benefits everyone.


After all, the critic must have put up with you all this time, right?

Photo credit from Padraig.

We’d love for you to leave a comment and share this post to encourage others. Thank you.

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