How to Handle Criticism

Sometimes, criticism is tough to accept, and it doesn't matter who it comes from – a family member, a friend, a coworker, or a stranger. Our first reaction is usually to defend or with anger. Whichever response you choose doesn't define who you are, but it can certainly help guide you on learning how to react in the future. This post's goal is to help you shift your current mindset of defensiveness to viewing criticism from a place of curiosity.

Like most things in life, handling criticism can be learned. There are two types of criticism we're all familiar with-- negative and constructive criticism. The former comes from a moment of human behavior at its worst. Negative criticism has no meaningful purpose and is just a way of lashing out on someone based on emotions. It has nothing to do with the quality of work provided by how a person can improve. Constructive criticism is the opposite and offers useful feedback specifying actionable tasks that a person can take to improve. Look at it from an analytical approach. Then evaluate the effectiveness of the work that is presented based on the knowledge and experience of the person offering the feedback.

Regardless of how a person delivers criticism, it is our goal as to why they may be offering the feedback that they're providing. We all know that it's always best to receive second opinions for things that are important to us. However, there may be times when it may not seem worth the effort to go out of the way to find a different perspective, and that is where most people also lose their way, especially when they are trying to reach a goal in life. You don't always have to accept one person's opinion as real for you. There will always be people in your life that will hate for no reason, so those are not the ones you should be approaching for advice or feedback on things that matter most to you.

Before asking for help from anyone, ask yourself these questions:

What do I hope to achieve by asking for feedback from this person?

  • What are his or her credentials?

  • Is this someone who I admire and respect?

  • Has he or she supported me or others like me in the past?

  • Does their advice or feedback contain helpful information that is specific and valuable to help me achieve my goal?

  • Does his or her value align with my own?

If you're not able to answer either of those initial questions in a positive note that will be beneficial for you in the end, it may not be a good idea to proceed with asking that person for their opinion. Likewise, if you are not satisfied with the criticism, you get curious about why their answers weren't what you expected. Sometimes, it may have nothing to do with you, or they may just not like you, and that's okay. Don't let one person's opinion discourage you. However, if you have four or five or nine very credible people relaying the same message to you, it may be worth taking some time to look at your work from a different perspective to make changes to reach the goal you're trying to accomplish.

Additionally, an excellent way of shifting from negative criticism to curiosity is by tapping into our emotional intelligence. Utilizing our emotional intelligence can help us handle any criticism. Daniel Goleman developed this concept in his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, where he talks about the importance of recognizing, understanding and managing our own emotions, and also recognizing, understanding, and influencing the feelings of others. If you haven't read it yet, be sure to add it to your list.

You cannot avoid change when you strive for perfection, but you can always find new ways to improve from imperfection.

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