How Do You Respond to Criticism?

Handle feedback with positivity to improve communication

Bridget Webber
Mar 16 · 4 min read

No one likes being the butt of critical remarks. How you respond to criticism, though, influences how it affects you.

Some criticism is a blessing and promotes personal development. Accept it well, and it helps you. On the other hand, disparagement is painful. Your hackles may rise if you take it to heart. These tips can help you manage criticism rather than let it upset you.

Hold back assumptions

When someone suggests something’s unpalatable about you, you may be angry. A defensive shield will rise around you.

The barrier stops insights from reaching you. So, curb the compulsion to draw conclusions. Wait rather than react.

Postpone responding until you hear the entire data offered. You’ll have the chance to digest and analyze. Does it sound reasonable after all? Are you clear about the motive behind the statement?

Rephrase what you think you understood. Ask whether you’ve got the gist of its meaning. Hearing the critical comment from your mouth will do one of three helpful things.

•The other person will say you’ve misunderstood. They’ll illustrate what they want to express in a way you appreciate.

•They will withdraw an uncalled-for remark.

•They’ll clarify what prompted them to speak.

Unnecessary criticism

Most critical folks are unhappy. Sometimes their anxiety has nothing to do with you. They’ve had a rotten day, or feel lousy and take their angst out on you. Their disparagement says far more about them than you.

Criticism sometimes spouts from people who want to look powerful too. It’s like boasting. Look everybody. I can put this guy down faster than I can swat a fly.

The truth though, is the critical individual doesn’t think they are superior in earnest. Quite the contrary. Why put someone down if not to elevate themselves because they feel insignificant?

Once you note their inferiority complex, you see their critiques aren’t personal. It’s about their issues, not yours, and you have a choice.

You can brush useless condemnation off and walk away, knowing it’s insignificant. A favorable response that frees you to move on and ignore the incident.

Or, you can speak your mind if the event will torment you otherwise. If you choose the latter, let go of indignation. Take deep breaths before speaking so you are calm rather than upset.

You might say everyone has a right to their viewpoint and the critical remark doesn’t match yours. Then end the conversation since it isn’t going anywhere worthwhile.

Do your ideas differ?

Some critical assertions aren’t meant to harm. But they stem from contrasting views — not wrong or right. Different. An individual might quibble with you, yet, their criticism isn’t based on truth or logic. It’s only an attitude.

If your way is right for you, but someone is critical, why not thank them for their opinion and let go? It’s okay for them to disagree with you and there’s no need to feel affronted as long as there’s no malicious intention.

Accept constructive criticism

Constructive criticism is valuable. It’s a fast track to growth if you take it on-board. When critical folks are right, be thankful. Accept greater knowledge adds to your wisdom and makes you wiser.

Some people are uncomfortable about giving advice. It comes out of their mouths in awkward ways. They might fear rejection and not want to agitate you. Note folk’s demeanor when they offer wisdom.

Are they nervous? They might want to help you. Unwrap their offerings and say “thank you.” It takes longer to learn things when people don’t tell you what’s wrong. When they make helpful remarks, be glad.

Who cares?

“Who do you spend time with? Criticizers or encouragers? Surround yourself with those who believe in you. Your life is too important for anything less.”–Steve Goodier

The only time to care about criticism is when it’s correct. If you identify any other sort, let it fly. Distasteful criticism comes from individuals whose judgments you don’t rate anyway.

Or it comes from anxious people who don’t realize they are insensitive. Later, they could be sorry. If they aren’t, you can wait until they are approachable and question their behavior. Then again, if they aren’t often critical, you might give them the benefit of the doubt.

Accept helpful reproach with grace and your wisdom will increase. You’ll look smart too. (Imprudent people don’t accept constructive feedback).

When criticism is outright inaccurate, though, don’t accept it; let it go. If someone tries to hand you a scolding hot potato, you can leave them with it so it doesn’t burn you. The same is true of criticism.

What about giving criticism?

It’s best to explore positive character traits and behaviors when possible. Avoid telling people you think there’s something amiss unless it’s helpful.

If you want to give someone a piece of your mind, think first. What’s your motive? Do the words you want to share rise from loving concern? Or are they an attempt to gain one-upmanship?

It’s hard not to speak your mind when you have firm views. But it’s far pleasanter to zip it than upset folks and deal with the overflow. People respond best to positivity. Unless you offer words that heal or help, don’t speak.

The Bolt-Hole

Self-improvement, stories, and poems

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