Dealing with criticism? Here are ten practical tips
No matter how evolved we are, no matter how many years we’ve lived, it is not always easy to handle criticism. Let’s face it—it hurts especially when it is unjustified or you are already feeling low.
Would you agree?
Of course, over time, we build our own defense mechanisms, adding to our “bag” of strategies for the different people we deal with. What works with one person may not be effective with another.
I am no different. There used to be a time my self esteem would take a nasty hit from the stinging remarks of thoughtless people. I’d dwell on it for days and it would stop me from doing my routine stuff because the hurt would always linger at the back of my mind.
Every time I went through an “episode” of hurt, my Mom consoled me good advice which, I am embarrassed to say, I didn’t always follow. You know how it is—when you feel bad you don’t believe any advice will work!
It’s weird how the criticism can come from just about anywhere—family members, people we live with, friends, colleagues or acquaintance we barely know. Intentional or unintentional, it hurts, right? And when it is done publicly, don’t ask! Cringe-worthy!
Then there are the naysayers who’ll drag you down and convince you that you are not good enough when you are about to embark on following your dream. Oh, been there, done that.
What to do?
Sometimes we feel like giving back as good as we get. Sometimes we just let it fester inside us. The thing is we have no control over someone else’s behavior but we can definitely control our own reaction to them. (yep, Mom’s first bit of advice). We don’t have to let them hurt us.
Here are ten tips to deal with criticism effectively.
1. Who’s criticizing you?
It matters where that criticism is coming from. Sometimes it is constructive criticism from someone close to us and sometimes, it is someone who is just plain mean. Be objective before you decide to speak up or let it slide. Look at the situation as an outsider, minus your ego. Are you being too sensitive? Or did someone just treat you badly for no reason? The answer will help you decide how to react. Now suppose I was writing a novel and P G Wodehouse criticized me, I’d be happy to listen. But if someone I hardly know passes judgment, why should I listen?
2. Why are they criticizing you?
One thing I’ve realized is this: when we try to accomplish big things, people become uncomfortable. Have you noticed that? They are so used to you the way you are that it bothers them you might achieve your goals when they are too scared to change. Who wants to admit they’re weak? Recognize them for what they are and don’t let it affect you. Go after your dreams anyway.
3. Don’t react
For someone who enjoys criticizing, their joy is in holding you back, seeing you quit or get upset. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Just stick to your plans. Don’t respond emotionally. Ignore them. Move on.
4. Don’t announce your plans
So yes, there’s a school of thought that believes there is accountability in sharing your plans publicly with the world. But there are studies that prove that this hurts more people than it helps. I know from experience. The moment you tell the world, the critics rush out of the woodwork to give you their unsolicited opinion and advice. Moral of the story, some plans are best kept to yourself.
5. Don’t dwell on it
Look, what’s the point in stewing in it? Let go. Center yourself. Channel your energy towards something that is more productive and enjoyable. Therein lies your happiness.
6. Look for the critics you want
Right? You know what I mean. Look for people whose criticism matters to you. In other words—find mentors who will help you grow with valuable advice. Someone who will care about your success and encourage you. Someone you look up to.
7. Be more focused
Criticism can be a great motivator, helping you focus and strive harder to reach where you are heading. It’s a great way to have the last laugh and show what you are capable of. I remember when I graduated from college, some of our family simply assumed the best job I would get was of a typist. Nothing wrong with a typist, but they laughed when they heard my plans. That attitude only fueled my resolve to get where I wanted. Win-win.
8. Find supportive people
It is great to have lots of friends. But you know what? In life, it is enough to have one or two people who will have your back no matter what. People who want the best for you. People who will always encourage you. People who love you and will set you free.
9. Ignore the critics
When you have goals and you are keen on accomplishing them, don’t give mind space to someone who is trying to stop you. That’s self-sabotage. Of course, if it is someone close to you, say, your Mom or Dad, not easy. But at least you can argue with them! There is simply no reason to hang on to that Negative Nancy who claims to be your friend but does everything possible to stop you from succeeding.
10. Change the topic
This one works like a charm. When someone take a dig at you, steer the topic to them, their life and what’s going on in it. You’ll be amazed how quickly they forget you and start yapping about themselves. Mission accomplished.
When you want to go places, the path will always be lined with critics. It is up to you to pay attention to them, or not. Unfortunately, most people prefer to stay in their comfort zone rather than struggle to grow. And most people are secretly frustrated about it. When you choose to grow, it is like a lousy reminder to them. It makes them feel bad that they settled for mediocrity. Don’t let them sabotage your dreams.
Build your boundaries. Try not to take it personally.
Move ahead. Be happy. You deserve it.
Here’s a wonderful mantra: remember it.
“It’s not what you call me but what I answer to.” African proverb
I was nodding my head to all the pointers you have shared, Vidya! My earlier boss LOVED criticizing all us in the team. The more his barbed words ruffled someone’s feathers, the more vicious he would be in his attack. Supporting each other, trying to ignore his words and not reacting helped a lot. As you rightly said, building your boundaries help in a great way around such people.
What great strategies. I especially like “look for critics you want” and “find supportive people.” Criticism is certainly something we all have to deal with, but using what we can to improve and leaving the rest without being devastated are important ways of navigating in my mind.
You’re right criticism hurts even now at this point in my life when I know myself reasonably well. Loved many of your pointers there. It helps hugely to have a bunch of supportive people around who can be honest with you without putting you down. However, I find that last strategy of changing the subject most effective.
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Criticism hurts even if we are pretty comfortable with ourselves. To add to it some people are overtly critical. These are some useful strategies. I only pay attention to the criticism if the person offering it matters to me.
I have been very bad at handling criticism. Even I used to linger on the comments for day which affected my daily routine. But slowly I learned to pay heed to who is criticising me and whether that is worth my attention. You have jotted great pointers and I found the post very reassuring. These serve as a constant reminder and are like mantras to deal with critics and their criticism!
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Kislaya recently posted…(F) FAMILY & FRIENDS (#AtoZ Challenge)
Hi Kislaya, thanks for sharing your experience. No matter how happy we are, hurtful comments are just that – hurtful. Glad you found this post useful. Heading to your blog now!
I love this list. I am more sensitive to criticism than I should be. I found #4 on this list very interesting. We have a caring bridge page for my husband who has cancer, but there are things that I don’t share on that page because we don’t need to be sidetracked by criticism. Instead, I share those things with family, in a group chat just for this purpose. They are supportive and want to stay informed so they can help when I need it. I will be sharing this on my FaceBook page. Lift Someone’s Spirits by Listening
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