Handling Criticism:
“Don’t criticize me. This is the way I’ve always done it!”

"Why Not?" — Einstein by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

If we do anything interesting in life, we’re bound to be criticized. It’s best to handle criticism without becoming defensive or taking it personally.

First consider the motivation of the person criticizing you. When you understand the motivation behind the criticism, it’s much easier to be objective rather than defensive. People criticize for various reasons:

1. To help you avoid making a mistake.
2. To connect with you.
3. To share a good idea that may improve on what you are doing.
4. To feel worthwhile.
5. To feel superior because they are jealous or feel inadequate.
6. To find fault because they feel threatened.
7. To vent irritability.

Depending on the motivation, you can handle the criticism differently. For example, If someone wants to share a good idea, it might be worthwhile to engage in a conversation with that person. On the other hand, for those who simply want to connect or to feel worthwhile, you don’t need a long discussion on why their criticism is not helpful. A simple “Thanks for your idea” may be adequate. If someone feels jealous or threatened by you, you can thank the critic and disengage. You might respond to someone who is simply irritable by asking, “Hey, what’s going on with you? You seem upset.”

Whatever the motivation and tone of voice, the criticism may be valid. So ask yourself if there is something to be learned by it. Focus only on what is helpful. Disregard the rest.

You can surprise the critic by thanking him or her for the criticism. If you agree with the criticism, let the critic know how helpful he or she has been. If not, respond honestly with your reasoning.

Critical people are often grateful that they are listened to. They are much more used to people becoming defensive and ignoring their ideas.

You show confidence by considering other people’s ideas, though it’s not necessary to accept them.

The man who is anybody and who does anything is surely going to be criticized, vilified, and misunderstood. This is part of the penalty for greatness, and every man understands, too, that it is no proof of greatness.

~Elbert Hubbard

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Defensiveness: “What do you mean by that? You’re always attacking me!””

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