We all hate to be criticized. Even if we know logically that we can learn when someone gives us unfavorable feedback, we’d all rather be perfect to begin with.
So how do you deal with criticism? And what do you do if it feels unjust? How do you know if that bad feeling you have from being criticized is your bruised ego or a response to knowing you have something you should change?
1. Figure out if the criticism is valid. A great indicator is whether you’ve heard the same complaint from other people at different times. We all have bad weeks, but if over the course of several months you receive the same complaint from several people, it’s worth paying attention to. Chances are it is you, not them.
2. Figure out if the criticism is valid even if it’s delivered poorly or hostilely. Not everyone has great social skills, but sometimes there’s a worthwhile underlying message even if it’s communicated poorly. Even if the criticism is delivered in a disrespectful way, you may ultimately have something you need to improve.
3. Figure out if part of the criticism is valid even if you know the rest is not. Sometimes there’s an element of truth even if the majority of what is said is incorrect.
4. Once you’ve decided that the criticism is valid, or at least partly so, even if it feels awful to hear, now you can take the steps to improve what you need to work on. Let go of the need to always be right; admitting your own faults can be very freeing as long as you’re working toward fixing them.
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5. Ultimately, I’ve found that the more I’m bothered by something, the more valid it is. This may not apply to you, but perhaps it’s worth thinking about. If you know you’re a hard worker, for example, and someone calls you lazy, you’ll likely let it roll off of you. But if you know you’ve been slacking off because you dislike your job, you might be more likely to react defensively because there’s truth to what’s being said.
6. Which brings me to: What do you do if you decide the criticism is unjust? Unless it’s a situation that will affect your long-term well-being at your job, for example, try taking the high road and ignoring it. If you react, you’ll be feeding into whatever issue the person has who’s delivering the unjust criticism, and you’ll be part of a unwanted cycle. If, however, you believe the person is harming your job (or relationship or other situation), then take steps to gently but firmly correct the misconceptions. Try to figure out why he or she has the ideas they do, and take the approach that you’re trying to help them resolve the situation.
How do you react to criticism?