“Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” - Aristotle
As much as we would like to think that we are always perfect, rational and optimally productive, we sometimes are not. Things may fall through the cracks, unforeseen circumstances may negatively affect other areas of our lives and, let’s face it, we can’t please everyone and ourselves all the time. In our lives, criticism is inevitable. We can’t control it, but we can control the way we handle it. Anyone who is successful has learned to deal with rejection and criticism and the way they handle it often plays a major factor to their success. Here are a few things to keep in mind…
Say thank you and don’t be quick to argue
One of the most difficult things to do is to bite your tongue and not instantly become defensive when faced with criticism (especially when you don’t agree with the other person). The best thing to do is to try to practice self-restraint, stay calm and to listen all the way through so you can clearly hear and absorb the message and thank them for their insight. In dealing with everything from workplace politics to relationships, it becomes an important life skill to learn to learn how to sit with the discomfort and compressed frustration of avoiding an initial emotional reaction instead of immediately acting or retaliating.
To make sure you understand exactly what the other person is saying, confirm the message by repeating it back to them. After assessing what he or she is communicating, take a few moments to gather your thoughts. Then, explain to them where you feel their opinion is wrong and where it may warrant merit, backing up your claims with specific evidence and examples based in logic, not emotion. If the criticism is not constructive or is ill intended, not reacting emotionally will likely throw the other person off. Either way, not behaving emotionally will automatically put you in a position of power.
See things from their point of view
After you take some time to cool down and gather your thoughts privately, try to understand the root of the criticism. Instead of focusing on the pieces of criticism, with all the points mentioned and comments made, make an effort to understand where the other person is coming from and why they are communicating such thoughts and opinions to you. Once you try to see things from that perspective, you can assess what their intention is – whether negative (perhaps rooted in jealousy over your new promotion) or positive (maybe they actually want to see you succeed and thought a few suggestions would help).
Don’t take it personally
No matter what, the biggest issue when it comes to criticism is when people feel personally offended. Remember it is important to always carefully consider the source and the root of the criticism. When people criticize us directly, remember that they are not criticizing us as a person but an aspect, behaviour or trait of ourselves. Think about what you criticize about others – it includes things like their tardiness, pride or habits, not the real person.
Embrace criticism and learn from it
Use criticism as a tool and stop viewing it so negatively. At the end of the day, you have the choice whether to let criticism bring you down and negatively affect your self-esteem or use it to better yourself and work to improve in areas you may be lacking. Be honest with yourself and whether you are in fact making excuses. Recognize any common grievances or recurring issues when it comes to criticism against you, especially if the criticism is coming from multiple sources. Take the criticism as an opportunity for self-reflection and improvement and a chance to open up to new perspectives and ideas you may otherwise not have considered. Whenever someone constructively challenges you, they may inspire you to challenge yourself.
There are other positives that can come from constructive criticism. For one thing, it opens up communication channels, therefore improving relationships between people. It provides an opportunity to get to know the wants, needs and expectations of the other person better, as well as a sometimes-needed catalyst to know yourself better. No matter what, stay positive and remember that the more time you spend lamenting over it, the less time you have to do something constructive with it.