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Learn to Use Criticism to Your Advantage

2013 July 11
by Marquita Herald

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. ~M. Herald

Learn to Use Criticism to Your AdvantageNo 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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20 Responses
  1. July 28, 2013

    Criticism affects everyone, whether it’s for an instant or a lifetime. As humans, we naturally want other people to like us. I do my best to take criticism lightly, depending on who it comes from. I can’t make everyone happy, and I’m just fine with that. This is my first time on your site, and I love your message!
    Keri Kight recently posted..25 Love Quotes to Grow Your HeartMy Profile

    • July 29, 2013

      Welcome Keri, so glad you enjoyed the article! It’s so great that you have such an intuitive understanding about criticism. Even when we understand the value and how we “should” manage it, criticism can be so tough to take. An author friend of mine told me she spent the last 2 days in bed recovering from her first bad review. We all live and learn, if we’re lucky. :-)
      Marquita Herald recently posted..Appreciation and Gratitude Begins with AwarenessMy Profile

  2. July 15, 2013

    Marty, especially for writers, you gotta learn to check your ego at the door when it comes to criticism: constructive and otherwise. Not everyone is gonna love your work. Editors are going to tear your essays apart – even in the nicest way possible.
    Kimba recently posted..Gone Fishin’My Profile

  3. July 14, 2013

    I guess it is normal for people to react to criticisms especially if not said in a good way. What is important is that in the end, one will think about the criticism and evaluate his self if the criticism does make sense and how he can correct it.
    Connor Harley recently posted..Help with Setting up a BusinessMy Profile

  4. July 14, 2013

    I use to be really bad at talking criticism in a positive way. Like you Marty, I am getting better. The main reason I am getiing better is because I know now that taking criticism and thinking it over has proved itself to be so beneficial to me…and to the person giving. It opens up great discussion “and” it allows me to be in a good position to teach my children in doing the same. It’s a win win. Great share! So happy your blog is back ;) ~ Nathalie

  5. July 12, 2013

    Yes criticism can be difficult. even if we invite it.
    But life lived to improve includes it doesn’t it.

    • July 13, 2013

      Welcome Terry, thanks for taking the time to contribute to the conversation. I’m not sure everyone is consciously living their life with the intention of improvement. The truth is many people are just looking to get through the day and when you’re living in that mindset it can be a struggle to deal with anything that rocks the boat, let alone your self esteem. Thanks again for stopping by!
      Marquita Herald recently posted..Learn to Use Criticism to Your Advantage My Profile

  6. July 12, 2013

    Love it and what a great collection of quotes thank you. am with Oprah- yes I think that there is always something to be learned from criticism, When we are at one with ourselves and love ourselves full then we can see criticism as a way to grow and we also know that our self-acceptance is higher
    Great post thank you
    Suzie Cheel recently posted..BE Trusting Of You And Your IntuitionMy Profile

    • July 13, 2013

      Welcome back Suzie, and thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I must admit as an author, I especially feel for fellow writers on this subject because you really have to develop a tough skin to deal with criticism of your work. Writing is such a personal journey, it’s understandable that criticism can feel like a hit home in a particularly painful way.
      Marquita Herald recently posted..Learn to Use Criticism to Your Advantage My Profile

  7. July 12, 2013

    A thought provoking article. I believe it’s not the criticism but how it is presented. As the famous saying goes, “Is not what we say, but how we make the other person feel” that determines how the person will receive it. As a member of Toastmaster International, I have the opportunity to experience receiving and providing “evaluations” to other members. I have found it a great practice to apply anytime we need to share negative feedback to others. When we focus on the person and the way the criticism is given to us, then is easier to accept it, for what it worth it. Good conversation topic!
    Delmy recently posted..Life Lessons from Cultural TraditionsMy Profile

    • July 13, 2013

      Welcome back Delmy! Of course you are so right about the importance of the role of delivery. Unfortunately not every one is as enlightened, and the truth is most criticism is delivered outside of a controlled or professional environment. In this article we’re talking about how to accept criticism, and when you’re in that position you seldom if ever have the opportunity to coach the person delivering the message.
      Marquita Herald recently posted..Learn to Use Criticism to Your Advantage My Profile

  8. July 12, 2013

    Wonderful article! It’s really difficult to accept criticism when we take it personal! When I started looking at criticism as “feedback” from what I was projecting into the world, it helped me to move forward rather quickly in business. Now yes, not all of the feedback was reliable, but I became very good at deciphering between the reliable and the crap that naysayers were throwing at me. I love how you brought this up because everyone goes through it at some point or another! Thanks!

  9. July 12, 2013

    I am so happy to see that you are taking credit for your own quotes now … a very good and accurate one, by the way ;-)

    I was not born with the gene that allows gracious acceptance of negative criticism either. Being the recovering perfectionist that I am, I tend to get defensive and think about refuting negative criticism instead of taking the “time-out” and letting myself absorb the context of the remark. This is an awesome practical step we can all take to digest and use criticism to our best advantage … thank you!

    I couldn’t agree more that how we react to criticism is the most important step. If we become so defensive and abrasive with our reaction, we may push away valuable criticism that people will never share with us because they don’t want to deal with our constant pushback. If we truly open ourselves up to criticism and accept it with grace, we can certainly learn so much about ourselves. I think I found a new habit to work on … thank you so much for the encouragement and reminder :-)
    Dave recently posted..Inspiration from aboveMy Profile

    • July 12, 2013

      Hey Dave, so were your ears burning yesterday? Funny thing is at first I did attribute that opening quote to “Author Unknown” then I remembered our exchange and decided to bite the bullet and add my name. Chalk one up for a nudge to the comfort zone. :-) So glad you enjoyed the article and thank you for your insightful comments – always appreciated!
      Marquita Herald recently posted..Learn to Use Criticism to Your Advantage My Profile

  10. July 12, 2013

    This is so true, Marquita! We cannot avoid criticism if we are doing things that create waves of change or meaning. It means we are in the arena, as Theodore Roosevelt said. We need to be in the arena to do things worthwhile! Thanks for the call to act! Jon
    Jon Mertz recently posted..20 Somethings: Being Grounded While Gaining GroundMy Profile

    • July 12, 2013

      Oh I love that Roosevelt quote Jon! One good bit of news about learning to manage criticism is it does get easier over time – there may always be that initial sting, but we can learn to recover much quicker with practice. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and contribute to the conversation.
      Marquita Herald recently posted..Learn to Use Criticism to Your Advantage My Profile

  11. July 11, 2013

    I try to receive criticism positively, it may helps me to be a better person..

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