If you do anything interesting in life, you are bound to be criticized. It is best to handle criticism without becoming defensive or taking it personally.
Consider the Critic’s Underlying Motivation
When you understand the motivation behind the criticism, it is easier to respond appropriately without becoming defensive. People criticize for various reasons, positive and negative:
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 about his or her ideas.
For those who want to connect with you 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, and then change the subject to something of more interest to you.
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, “You seem upset. Is there something going one in your life?”
Consider the Criticism
Regardless of the critic’s motivation, the criticism itself might carry some validity. So ask yourself if there is something to be learned by it. Focus only on what is helpful. Disregard the rest. You show confidence when you consider other people’s ideas.
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 may be accustomed to people becoming defensive and ignoring their ideas.
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.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD