Thoughts on how to handle criticism

Gwen Randall-Young

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” ~ David Brinkley
How to you react when someone criticizes you? Our first instinct may be to defend ourselves, or else to retaliate. There are some things we should consider.
First of all, it makes sense to consider if there is any truth in what they have said. Is it constructive criticism? A boss or supervisor is doing their job when they point out something they are not happy with. It is never a good idea to get defensive or make excuses. Instead, thank them for pointing this out and say it won’t happen again.
In our personal lives, it is different. Criticism is often a personal attack and can do more harm than good. We can tell people what we want, or expect, without criticizing them.
While it is true that we do not want others to think badly of us, their criticism really says more about them than it does about us. If they are saying something that is hurtful, they are not being respectful and clearly do not have our best interests at heart.
Often when someone criticizes us their intention is to make us feel small, and to make themselves feel powerful. A strong person does not need to use criticism of others to feel powerful.
There are many ways to make a point without belittling the person. To my mind, the relationship should always be more important than the issue. People should realize that a critical remark is the psychological equivalent of hitting someone. Just because it is words and not a fist, does not mean the damage is any less.
If someone is making hurtful remarks, we can let them know that we are not interested in hearing their opinions expressed in that way. Tell them that if they want to express concerns in a respectful manner you will listen. You can also ask, “What do you want?”
If the critic is being mean, shut down the conversation. Try not to obsess over what was said. If someone is being mean spirited, consider if you need that person in your life. At the same time, ask yourself if you have done anything to bring on that criticism. If someone has made repeated requests of you and you have not cooperated, they may be very frustrated.
If what is said to us is not true, do not give it any power. Spend more time coaching yourself to let it go than taking it personally.
Many highly successful people have had to deal with a lot of criticism and judgment. Rather than getting into fights about it, they have chosen to focus instead on their own path. Criticism, if nothing else, gives you the opportunity to remain in integrity, refusing to stoop to that level. You can hardly object to a behavior if you turn around and do it yourself!