How To Handle Criticism Gracefully

It's never fun to hear criticism. However, criticism is an inevitable (and even necessary) part of life. Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to keep it from causing permanent harm to your peace of mind.

January 6, 2016
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It’s never fun to hear criticism. Having another person give negative feedback can take its toll on our sense of peace or self-worth. It can damage relationships or leave us feeling insecure. However, criticism is an inevitable (and even necessary) part of life. Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to keep it from causing permanent harm to your peace of mind. Here are a few tips to handle criticism without falling apart.

First, consider the source.

Who has given you the feedback? If it’s a boss telling you that you need to step it up at work, then of course you’ll want to take the feedback and make certain changes. If a loved one or close friend gives you criticism, you’d do well to truly listen to what he or she has to say. However, if the person who has criticized you is someone you don’t know or particularly care about, try to brush off whatever harsh comments you’ve received. Not everyone’s feedback is valuable, so decide whose you’ll take to heart or whose you’ll choose to disregard. Also, some people are apt to criticize (almost) everything and everyone. If that is the case here, don’t take it personally. With time and experience, you can get better at not letting someone’s careless words get you down.

Another way to soften the blow of criticism is to decode the underlying emotional message that is being expressed.

Beneath the words, is there a need or frustration that the other person is concealing? For example, my friend recently received an angry email from her co-worker, “Lindsey,” who blasted her for leaving a project partially unfinished. Although my friend was somewhat in the wrong, the cruel words of the email she received far outweighed her “crime.” Fortunately, she was able to take the criticism in stride (though it did hurt) and see her co-worker’s underlying frustration. In my friend’s response, she stood up for herself, but also validated Lindsey’s concern. The two women were able to resolve the problem and move past it. When it comes to criticism you receive in your life, as difficult as it may be, try to decipher and validate what the other person is truly feeling. This can help put things in perspective.

When handling negative feedback, it’s vital to separate your worth from your performance.

We all have inherent value simply because we exist. Our worth is constant, but our performance (or behavior) may fluctuate from day to day. We all have peaks and valleys. When others give us feedback, they are usually criticizing our performance. Remember that someone’s words about your behavior bear no influence on your worth. Keeping this in mind will help you be more open to feedback that can help you improve your performance.

Finally, when it comes to accepting criticism, know that you are the judge.

You get the last say. You have the right and the privilege to figure out if there’s any truth to the criticism that you can learn from and apply, or whether it’s invalid and not something you need to worry about. By carefully evaluating someone’s words about how your performance may be deficient or imperfect, you can take the good and leave the bad. Ultimately, it’s up to you whether the feedback is important enough to truly consider.

I know from personal experience that criticism can really sting and cause us to doubt ourselves. Hopefully, these tips can help you recover from someone’s (harsh) feedback, take things in stride, and preserve your happiness and sense of self.

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