Learn to Use Criticism to Your Advantage
The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. ~M. Herald
No matter how evolved you are, criticism stings. For some that sting may only last a moment, for others each new criticism will be added to a lifetime of self-doubts and become yet another piece of emotional baggage. And then there are those who will mentally rerun the criticism over and over, as though being able to come up with the right retort would somehow change the outcome or prove them in the right. Criticism, constructive or otherwise, doesn’t have to derail you – in fact learning to use criticism to your advantage can go a long way toward enhancing your self esteem and confidence.
In an ideal world, all criticism would be “constructive” and delivered in a thoughtful, caring way so as to offer an equal measure of encouragement. The reality is that regardless of how it’s delivered, ultimately it is the responsibility of the one on the receiving end to learn to manage their reaction to criticism in a way that will allow them to learn and grow from the good stuff, and discard the rest.
Your First Reaction is the Most Important
I’ve always envied people who can graciously accept constructive criticism. I will be the first to admit I was not born with that particular trait, though I have vastly improved over the years by learning to put myself on a “time out” before I react. Of course this is easier said than done if the criticism is being delivered face-to-face, but believe it or not your initial coping strategy will be the same regardless of the delivery method. Take a few cleansing breaths to calm down and stop the reactive quips that immediately started flying around in your head the minute your brain first registered a “criticism” was being delivered.
It’s all too easy to hear something different from what’s actually being said when you allow yourself to fall into defensive mode, so the sooner you can pull back and regain your composure the better. If your internal chatter distracted you for a time, you can recover by asking for clarification and restating to make sure you understand what’s being said. If the criticism was delivered in writing or say in an email, then save it – walk away for a time and return later when you can better absorb the context of the message.
The Only Way to Avoid Criticism is to Do Nothing
To borrow a phrase from Oprah, here’s what I know for certain … there is almost always something to be learned from criticism, even the harsh or self-serving variety, and even if the only good to be found is that it serves to strengthen resolve in your beliefs and values.
Here are a few inspirational thoughts for you on the value of criticism …
- Don’t mind criticism. If it is untrue, disregard it. If it is unfair, keep from irritation. If it is ignorant, smile. If it is justified, learn from it. ~Author Unknown
- A true artist willingly removes their heart, allows constructive criticism to stomp it, then puts it back–bruised and aching–to continue improving due to the all-consuming obsessive love for their art. ~H.G. Mewis
- Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger. ~Author Unknown
- A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him. ~Sidney Greenbergd
- Some criticism will be honest, some won’t. Some praise you will deserve, some you won’t. You can’t let praise or criticism rule you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one. ~John Wooden
- Too many people permit relatives, friends, and the public at large to so influence them that they cannot live their own lives, because they fear criticism. ~Napoleon Hill
- The only way to avoid criticism is to do nothing, say nothing … but then you will be nothing. ~Author Unknown
- Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember, the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you. ~Zig Ziglar
- Few people have the wisdom to prefer the criticism that would do them good, to the praise that deceives them. ~Francois de La Rochefoucauld
- Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. ~Eleanor Roosevelt
- No matter how good a person you are, there will always be someone criticizing you. ~Author Unknown
- The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. ~Normal Vincent Peale
As tempting as it may be to respond in kind to criticism, particularly if the feedback comes from someone you don’t know or respect, try to remember that worthwhile feedback can come even from flawed sources.
How about you? Do you have a particular coping mechanism when faced with criticism or negative feedback?
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