How to deal with criticism

Whether you made a mistake or you said something really painful, we all know the awful feeling when someone has criticised you. It’s distressing, embarrassing and you just want to forget about what happened and what you did. It's hard to deal with criticism.

Criticism can of course be very constructive - you can learn from it. But it can also seriously undermine you confidence. I see sometimes clients who still suffer from criticism years later, especially if they were criticised repeatedly.

Nobody likes to get criticism, whether it’s constructive or negative. But how can we deal well with it? How can we learn from it? How can we react gracefully to it

1. Decide if the criticism is justified

Many people skip this step, but it’s essential. Before you react to criticism - hold your horses! People can criticise you for many reasons. It might be that you did indeed something wrong, but there can be many other things at play. People play power games, people might for some reason be really sensitive to certain things and some people just feel really angry inside, at something that happened to them, at life in general and you just happen to be the subject they project their anger on.

So before you do anything, first decide if the criticism is justified or not.

2. Rebut unjust criticism

If the criticism is unjust, say so calmly. Explain why you did what you did and why you think it’s right to do so. Well, that wasn’t so bad, was it?

3. Apologise if the criticism is justified

If the criticism is justified, you apologise. Apologising well really is an art. You want to show that you mean it, and you want to be dignified. It’s best to follow these three steps:

  1. You apologise: ‘I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.’

  2. You show that you really understand the consequences of what you said or what you did wrong and you say that you really regret it: ‘I can very well see why you’re hurt by what I said. I really regret that.’

  3. You promise to mend your ways: ‘From now on I’ll be more mindful of what I’m saying.

In this manner you show that you take the criticism seriously and that you learn from your mistakes. If you do this well, it’s really OK to be a little proud of yourself. This wasn’t easy to do, but you did it, and now you can continue life with your head held high.

4. Deal with your pain

When you have been criticised, chances are you’ll feel bad about it for a while. That’s completely normal. See if you can replace your negative thoughts with positive ones:

  • It’s normal to be criticised, it’s important to be criticised every now and then. That’s not so bad at all.

  • You dealt really well with the criticism. That’s more than most people can say.

  • It’s important to be criticised sometimes, because it’s a really good way to learn.

  • There were mitigating circumstances. You were tired and busy and you had to do ten things at the same time. Anyone in your place would have made mistakes.

  • And there are many more.

Need more?

Dealing with criticism can be really hard. Tips in a blog can be a good start, but if you really want to change something, you might consider coaching. Did you recognise yourself here? I coach people with difficult bosses and other work problems. Why not have a look a my homepage or book a free coaching consultation?

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