Criticism motivates some people to improve and grow, while others find it upsetting and depressing. It is especially bad for perfectionists and people with complexes, but the fact is that no one likes to be criticized.
Reacting to criticism with negative emotions is the norm – some people cry and shut down, others get offended or angry. Often, however, such actions lead to unpleasant consequences that we later regret. Therefore, calmness is essential, regardless of whether the criticism is fair or unfounded. So how do you handle such situations?
Identify where the criticism is coming from
The first thing to assess is who the person is who is criticizing you. Is he or she important to you, or just passing by? There is no point in analyzing anonymous negative comments on the Internet, the rudeness of random people and passersby, the opinions about your life of distant relatives and friends of friends who know nothing about you.
You should consider critical comments from people who know you and with whom you have an ongoing relationship in some field – these can be close family members, friends, partner and co-workers. This does not mean that you will only hear constructive comments from them.
Recognize what kind of criticism you are dealing with
You need to react differently to constructive criticism than to unfounded criticism that is probably meant to humiliate or offend you. Generally, when criticism is deserved:
- agree and thank you for the remark regardless of the interviewee’s attitude;
- consider how you can correct the mistake that was criticized;
- turn off your emotions and focus on the facts. Ask additional questions to clarify the criticism.
In case of unsupported criticism, you should:
- ask for clarification of the position – usually at this stage the critic will fall silent;
- find weaknesses in the other person’s argument, and then point them out calmly. At this stage, you already know that the criticism is not really about you. Your interlocutor has a problem;
- it is best to approach it with humour or ignore it. The critic most likely wants you to react with emotion and will be surprised if you don’t get your point across.
Separate the emotional from the rational
Don’t focus on the emotional surroundings of the criticism, but on what is fact and what you have real influence over. Don’t take comments about your hairstyle, clothing, or physique – none of these things should be other people’s concern. If someone criticizes such issues, they most likely do not have good intentions. However, when you receive a message from your boss that your productivity has decreased, try to understand why he or she thinks that and how you can change it.
Don’t defend yourself, ask questions
It’s a good idea to break down constructive criticism so you can learn from it for yourself and use it for self-development. If you have received critical feedback at work, analyse the circumstances, source and possible reasons carefully. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to help clarify the situation more quickly. Unfair criticism is best ignored, although in the case of loved ones, asking questions can help you understand the problem. In either case, don’t get defensive or make excuses.
Before any reaction, you should first of all calm down, count to 20 or breathe deeply. It’s also a good idea to take a short walk or drink a glass of water. Also understand that no one is perfect. To err is human, and criticism is often an opportunity to learn useful lessons that will help you avoid the same or similar mistakes in the future.
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