Unless delivered with a particularly skillful charm and grace, most would agree that receiving criticism is a rather unpleasant experience. Even the thick-skinned among us have gotten a critique at some point that stung. Criticism can pop up anywhere — on a college essay, during a meeting at work, in the home, or on your social media. Being able to handle criticism is an important skill but it’s not an easy lesson to learn.
When the criticism is deconstructive — just flat-out mean — it’s a blow to your self-esteem and can have long-lasting effects on your well-being. Yet, even when faced with constructive criticism, you may find yourself hurt and defensive. The temptation to lash out or get upset may be strong but these four tips can help you look at criticism a different way.
Don’t react immediately
You’ve spent all day in the kitchen cooking for a big family dinner the only thing your sister-in-law notices is a smudge on her wine glass. Who wouldn’t be tempted to tell her what she can do with your stemware? While you certainly don’t deserve criticism after all your hard work, flying off the handle in front of the whole family won’t fix anything. You need to stay calm, step away and take a breath. Once the initial emotion has subsided, you can re-evaluate how you really feel and what action, if any, you should take next.
Don’t take it personally
After a presentation at work, one of your colleagues criticizes your public speaking skills. It hurts to hear it but try not to take it personally. First, consider the source of the criticism. Is your co-worker in a bad mood or typically a negative person? Some people are overly critical by nature. They may not realize how it affects others or they might just not care. In either case, it’s about them, not you. If it’s constructive criticism you’re finding hard to hear, focus on the action that’s being criticized. Maybe your public speaking skills need some work but it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you as a person.
Be the bigger person
When the temptation to react to harsh criticism is just too strong to resist, try a totally different approach — say thanks! It’s a particularly effective method of dealing with deconstructive criticism. If someone is offering a mean critique just for the sake of being mean, fight back with kindness. Sure, it’s painful to hear what they’re saying but false criticism doesn’t deserve an ounce of your emotions. Say thanks and move on — don’t waste anymore of your time thinking about it.
Learn from it
Even when criticism is delivered nicely, receiving it rarely feels good. You spent hours on that college essay and it comes back covered in corrections and critiques from the professor. It’s their job to point out your errors so that you can do better the next time. This criticism is a learning experience and even the hardest things to hear can teach us something. If you can hold back on the emotional reaction, there’s often some truth to be found. Instead of letting it knock you down a peg, look at criticism as an opportunity to grow and improve.