When handling criticism, treat it like a buffet counter. Take the best, leave the rest.
I suppose the answer to how we might respond to criticism depends on our personal view of ourselves and the how-when-why-what-where-who from the other side.
For me, it used to be hard to receive constructive criticism, but I don’t have that same chip on my shoulder anymore. To bristle against criticism is reflexive, but with maturity, our attitude toward criticism should improve.
But, what if you have a rejection chip on your shoulder or a rejection filter where everything sounds like rejection? Why does it matter if you do?
Walking around with a big chip on our shoulders keeps us from learning new things, being a better person, getting promoted, making friends, and creates loss of community.
We are difficult to coach if we can’t handle being told a better way to do something. We are difficult to work with if we always jump to our own defense before we hear someone out.
In relationships, we don’t allow other opinions if we think we are always right.
We also close our ears to the opinions of others, if we think people don’t listen to us.
People who can’t take criticism often come across as weak, lacking confidence, unattractive, pitiful or angry and a myriad of adjectives that are not positive.
Constructive criticism could be mistaken as a form of rejection. “I did not like what you did, therefore I don’t like you.” But, it isn’t a rejection of you. Handling criticism is a vital part of being an adult. I can disagree with you and still like you.
1. First, mentally force yourself to take the chip off your shoulder and try listening to what is being said.
Learning from constructive criticism that is delivered in a healthy way, by someone who excels at what they are talking about (or who you have asked), makes you a better person.
When you receive what is said with grace and discernment, it is a sign of maturity and self confidence.
It doesn’t make you less for someone to find a weakness in you or a mistake you made. Someone’s opinion does not take away from anything you have done that you thought you did well. Stand by your work, but allow yourself to hear what others say.
It won’t hurt unless you treat it as rejection. You can choose how to take it.
2. Consider the source.
There is great wisdom to be gleaned by paying attention to constructive criticism.
Allowing mentors, people we admire, and experts to give us direction and good advice is a sign of a healthy person. I am not talking about those voices that constantly find fault with you and are a berating unkind voice in life, but those that are expressing a well intentioned voice of knowledge that can help you get better at something. The old adage “consider the source” comes to mind.
3. Consider the intention.
If you asked someone their opinion, don’t bristle when they give it. Just listen and agree or disagree. If the criticism comes from someone you care about and who cares about you, consider that their intentions are probably honorable. The source is an important element as to whether you should listen and receive or let it roll off your back.
There are times that we need positive support, and outright criticism can be hurtful and not constructive. “Here is how you are wrong” conversations can be delivered as judgment of someone. Attacks on someone’s character is an example of a place where no one grows.
Sitting someone down and telling them how wrong they are in a judgmental self righteous way is an assault. Being judgmental when someone is hurting is unkind. I take it one step further. If you are not truly helping someone with the best intentions and in real love, then keep your mouth shut. If you are delivering an indictment without all the facts, keep your mouth shut.
4. If the tone is unkind, self righteous, ugly, or delivered in anger that is not justified, do not take it to heart or listen further.
The tone that we deliver criticism is an important part of the process. If criticism or fault finding is not given with good intention and in a healthy tone of voice, it is an attack and will create negative responses.
5. You can take constructive criticism that is delivered well and with good intentions in several ways.
One response is to be defensive and come across as a big baby lacking in confidence.
This is especially true in a setting where you could learn something!. You are tossing away an opportunity to be a better you. Smarter, wiser, greater, more interesting!
Secondly, listen to or read the constructive criticism and consider what might be taken from it.
Take the best parts and keep that thought. Could you consider thinking “I might I need to know that. I might learn from one part of that. What do I agree with in that?”
Finally, you can respond with confidence and agree or disagree.
If the criticism is an attack, you can say “Do not speak to me that way and in the future if you do not have something constructive to say, keep it to yourself.” Or you can ignore what is being said if it is an attack.