We need to realize that criticism doesn’t always come gently from someone legitimately trying to help. A lot of the feedback we receive is unsolicited and doesn’t come from our bosses or teachers, maybe all of it does.
We can’t control what other people will say to us, whether they’ll approve or form opinions and share them. But we can control how we internalize it, respond to it, and learn from it, and when we release it and move on.
If you’ve been having a hard time dealing with criticism lately, here’s how you can deal with it.
How to Deal with Criticism and Critical People
We all get hit by life’s slings and arrows from time to time. These can come from a resident critic—a family member, friend, or co- worker who always finds something wrong—or as an occasional putdown that catches you by surprise. What do you do when an insult is hurled your way, privately or publicly? Do you pretend you didn’t hear it or hurl an insult right back? Do you internalize it or get angry and lash out. You may not be able to stop someone’s nasty words or careless actions, but you can change how you deal with those barbs. They don’t have to take you down or tempt you to retaliate.
Assess the Criticism and the Source
It’s important to get an accurate read on a situation to decide the best way to respond. There’s a big difference between constructive criticism from someone who loves you and getting bashed by someone who is out to discredit you and hurt your feelings. You’ll need to get some objectivity before deciding whether it’s right to speak up or let it go.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
Pressure can build when you don’t acknowledge what’s bothering you. When someone hurts you, especially someone close to you, you may stuff your feelings below the surface to avoid a confrontation. But your feelings are a key part of your internal guidance system—they warn you when something is wrong. By ignoring feelings, you create a larger problem to deal with later. By accepting the messages they bring, you’ll be able to deal more effectively with issues from the start.
Draw Clear Boundaries with Big Critics
You get to choose who and what you will tolerate in your life. If you are in a personal or working relationship with someone who tries to whittle away your self-esteem by constantly judging and belittling you, you owe it to yourself to create boundaries and to tell that person how you feel when that happens. It’s important for your well-being to remove yourself from that toxic energy. It can weigh you down, stunt your creativity, and make you feel depressed or sick.
Look for the Nugget of Truth
The people in our lives—at home, at work, or in line at the grocery store—are often our mirrors. They reflect back the impact of our words and actions. Another’s words, though harsh or spiteful, can awaken us to an aspect of our own behavior we have refused to own up to. Although criticism can be hard to take, you can benefit from it by looking for the nugget of truth embedded in a painful situation.
Correct Lies and Statements That Sabotage
When someone spreads dangerous rumours or lies that jeopardize your job or an important relationship, you can’t ignore it. This is not the time to chatter behind closed doors with friends or wring your hands with worry. This is a time for positive action. Don’t blame or shame the judgers by calling them names. Instead, focus on finding resolution by clearing inaccuracies in the sabotaging statements. There may be real misunderstandings that you now have the opportunity to clear up with facts.
Problem-Solve from the Heart
The world’s sages teach that a quiet heart can lead us to the best solutions to any issue. When you are facing the knotty problem of how to deal with someone’s unkindness or sharp criticism, you’ll handle the situation better by moving into your heart. Don’t impulsively shoot from the hip (or the mouth). Pick your favourite technique for centering before making a decision.
Stay on Target
When an immature insult comes flying at you, rather than playing the role of victim and seeing yourself as the target, stay on target. Don’t let criticism and insults distract you from your goals and life purpose. There’s a saying that “no good deed goes unpunished.” Taking a stand or breaking out of conventional ways to express your authentic voice may well draw fire from the jealous and competitive. Consider it background noise and don’t let it distract you.
Open Your Heart and Reach Out to Others
Sometimes what’s directed at you is not about you at all. The person who is complaining may simply be struggling with an internal battle that is spilling over into your life. When people nag or grumble, they may actually be trying to tell you that they are hurting. Griping about the clothes on the floor, the dishes in the sink, or the project that is five minutes late may be code for “I need your support and attention. I need to feel valued and appreciated.”
Be Gracious but Firm in Public
A public embarrassment, whether it’s a putdown from a boss or co- worker at a meeting, a relative at a family function, or a heckler in the audience, may be uncomfortable, but it is an opportunity to walk your talk. Don’t criticize the critics, respond defensively, or pick a fight by hurling an angry or sarcastic comeback. That only makes you look like the offender and fuels the fire. Stay polite, calm, and in control. You’ll inspire others to have confidence in you by acting with self-confidence.
Don’t Take It Personally
If you have taken to heart the previous suggestions and adjusted your behavior in an attempt to resolve an issue, but are still dogged by an unrelenting critic, it’s probably time to move on. Unfortunately, some people criticize as a way of projecting their own issues onto others or taking the focus off their own inadequacies, and there is nothing you can do about it. Continually dwelling on their childish behavior or holding a grudge will only keep you stuck.