It is human nature not to like being criticized. But the fact is, you cannot avoid criticism! As Aristotle says: “Criticism is something you can only avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
We are always looking forward to appreciation. When people speak kind words we feel happy. When people find fault with us we feel miserable. But if we only accepted false praise and flattery, how would we ever improve in life?
There are two types of criticism — constructive and destructive. Learning to recognize the difference between the two can help you deal with any criticism you may receive. Constructive criticism is meant to help you. Destructive criticism is only intended to cause hurt.
How to handle criticism
As criticism is inevitable, let’s equip ourselves to face it without being thrown off balance.
Respond to the content not the tone of the criticism. Sometimes people make valuable critical comments and offer equally valuable suggestions. However, their tone and style of criticism is hurtful and sometimes offensive. It puts us down emotionally and we focus on their confrontational manner. In this respect, we need to separate the criticism from the style of criticism. Even if people speak in an angry tone, we should try to detach the emotions involved from the useful suggestions which lie underneath. This is easier said than done. It requires a lot of effort, but believe me, it is worth it.
Don’t respond immediately. Give a deliberate pause to control your emotions. You don’t have to blow up every time someone passes a critical remark. Your first instinct might be to immediately respond or defend yourself, but it is best to resist the urge; delay your response until you’ve composed your thoughts. By doing this you prevent yourself from acting defensively or saying something you may regret later.
Acknowledge that you might be wrong. This is perhaps the most crucial and most difficult step for most of us. If you’ve identified criticism as constructive, then ignore the rude manner, harsh tone, and personality of the person offering said criticism. It’s good to be confident of yourself and your abilities, but it’s also important to accept that we cannot see our shortcomings. If someone is pointing out our shortcomings, let’s accept it and make due effort to correct them.
Change your perspective. Know the difference between destructive and constructive criticism. You have to know where the feedback is coming from and understand the intentions of the person who is criticizing you. If it’s a teacher or an elder, then chances are they only want you to perform better; but when it’s coming from a friend, an acquaintance or even a stranger, then you have to ponder whether or not the person has your best interests in mind.