How to Handle Criticism


Critical words rarely feel good. Whether it’s a less-than-spectacular review from a boss, demeaning comments from a teacher or unkind remarks from a neighbor, no one enjoys the sting of negative feedback. How do we learn to deal with criticism in a positive way and grow through the hard conversations of life? These steps will help you navigate the rough waters and keep you from sinking into discouragement.

  1. Ask questions. It is often beneficial to build a bridge of understanding by reaching out with questions like, “Could you clarify what you mean?” Or “How would you do it differently?” We must also ask ourselves a few questions such as, “Is there validity to what this person is saying or is his criticism off-base?” “Are these comments relevant to my situation?” No one is perfect, and we all have room for improvement, but we also want to make sure the comments are valid, helpful and realistic. The two most important questions to ask ourselves are: “How can I grow from this?” “What positive actions steps can I take to move forward?”
  2. Consider the source. Throughout our lives, we will encounter grumblers, bullies, gossips, complainers and hurtful people who continually spew unwelcomed commentaries out of their mouths. It is a good idea to set boundaries and keep a distance from destructive people such as these and learn to let their negative comments slide off of us like water on a ducks back. On the other hand, when we receive a critique from a wise and respected person in our lives, we can treasure their words as if they were gold.
  3. Get another person’s perspective. It is difficult to get a broad view of our own situation, so it helps to seek out advice and counsel from a trusted friend. A third party can see the picture from a different angle and help us understand what we may or may not be able to see in ourselves. It takes courage to be vulnerable and ask for help. Consider who you can trust. Never let the office gossip read your negative review, rather find someone who is safe and can give you prudent and honest feedback.
  4. Be grateful. It may sound odd to be grateful for something we consider negative, but remember criticism has its positive side. It keeps us humble, it allows us to get better, it makes us more sensitive to others. Plus it makes us stronger and tougher and prepares us to face more challenges. There are times when it may be appropriate to reach out and thank the person who was critical toward us. When we are grateful, we demonstrate maturity, grace and a willingness to learn and grow.
  5. Change Focus. When hurtful words come our way, they tend to press in on us like a nagging headache. It’s all we can think about, so we must deliberately shift gears and turn our focus in a new and positive direction. But how? One antidote to negative feedback is to remind ourselves that each one of us is created with unique strengths as well as certain weaknesses. We all have things we do well, so let’s build on our strengths, manage around those weak spots and consider what steps we can take to grow and learn. Don’t let someone else’s words diminish your dream. Refocus on your goals and move steadily toward them.

Criticism doesn’t have to define us, but it can be used to shape us into braver, stronger and wiser people. The next time we feel disheartened by negative comments, let’s use it for growth and use it for good. We should never seek revenge, and never miss the opportunity to lift up others with kind and reassuring words. Let’s be encouragers rather than discouragers.


Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

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