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It would be nice if all the feedback we received were positive. However, that is impossible. Criticism, whether deserved or not, is inevitable. Dealing with criticism well is a vital life skill. Criticism may come from bosses, family, coworkers, friends, or romantic partners. What all criticism has in common is the pain it can cause.
These negative feelings lead many people to handle criticism very poorly. That’s not good, especially if the criticism is accurate.
Here are some suggestions to help you handle criticism better:
Don’t be defensive
When you are hurt, your instinct may be to lash out against the person who precipitated your pain. However, doing so is a destructive response. It’s possible the criticism is unwarranted, but you must remain open to the chance it’s perfectly deserved. After all, personal growth is all about improving yourself.
Criticism can actually be a valuable opportunity to gain self-knowledge. Carefully consider the criticism you’ve received, but don’t respond in anger even if it is unfair.
Communication is key to remedying any sort of difficult interpersonal conflict. Your first goal should be clarity. React calmly, and try to seek a better understanding of what exactly you are being criticised for. Without getting angry, ask a few questions. Give the other person a chance to fully explain themselves. Then, with a full understanding of their position, you should respond and open a dialogue. Explain your thoughts as clearly as you can and see what they have to say in return.
Don’t take it too personally
Rarely does criticism reflect upon the core of your being. Usually, criticism merely means someone thinks you are falling short in a peripheral area. For example, if your boss says you’ve done poorly on a particular project, that doesn’t reflect on who you fundamentally are as a person. If your spouse has an issue with one of your habits, that doesn’t mean they don’t love you.
Ultimately, the most important aspect of dealing with criticism is judging whether it is accurate or not. If the criticism is just, that means you have a chance for personal improvement. It’s a glass-half-full situation: faults and mistakes are bad, but the chance to learn from them is good.
Think carefully and deeply about what’s been said. Usually, this will take some time, especially if the criticism has made you emotional. When you are clear-headed, weigh the pros and cons of the argument. Determine the extent to which the criticism was true. Then move forward as the situation demands.
Being criticised can feel completely terrible. It’s certainly never enjoyable. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad thing, nor is it something to be absolutely avoided. Since criticism is part of life, learning how to better deal with it is something everyone should do.
Michael Evan Salley is a team leader with a Master’s in Construction Science and Management. He is organised, dependable, goal-oriented, and passionate about what he does.