How To Handle Criticism ? … 8 Effective Ways Of Dealing with it

Effective Ways To Handle Criticism

“There is only one way to avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing and be nobody.” – Aristotle

Imagine this. You are in a good mood today. Something that made you really happy and you decided to tell a friend about it, to share with him this joy that drives you. But this friend listens with half an ear as you exult.

Worse still, he/she starts to give you his opinion on the subject, and criticizes you by explaining why it is not so great. What a killjoy! And before you know it, your mood has taken a 180 degree turn from joy to disappointment and irritation.

Sound familiar? This is the typical behavior of people who criticize. Critical people can be really discouraging. No matter what you say, they will always find a way to kill you during the conversation. You can’t even remember the last time they gave you a compliment or encouraged you.

They have this incredible ability to scrutinize and zoom in on all your little problems. Then they fixate on these issues and give you their opinion on it, even though no one has asked their opinion. And as if that were not enough, they imagine with you all the possible bad situations that could arise.

Are you a little too open emotionally? Be careful, because these critics are emotionally petty. They love to remind you of the “flaws” in everything you do. They seem to have a filter that automatically blocks any idea of “good” in anything. Instead of complimenting, they only know how to criticize.

8 Effective Ways To Handle Criticism

Naturally, critical people are not to be taken as friends. Although you may try to avoid them, you are bound to encounter one or more of them, outdoors or at work. Here are my 8 tips to support them:

1. Don’t take it personally

Most of the time, reviews only reflect those who make them. You may react negatively and get upset. You may think that the critic is only like that with you, but instead he/she tends to react the same way with everyone else.

Here’s a quick test: think of any friends or coworkers you have in common with this individual. If possible, think of people who have the same social status as you, so that the comparison is fair.

After that, try to be there the next time that critical person gets together with their friends and colleagues. How does the critic behave? Does she always make the same kind of comments to them? Does she focus on the negative things? Is she still critical? It is very likely that this is the case.

Before, I tended to take criticism from an acquaintance personally. I wondered why he was so discouraging, and I always got defensive every time he opened his mouth to offer his opinion. Yet when I saw him chatting with one of our mutual friends, I understood that he was doing the same thing with everyone.

He repeated the same comments, the same criticisms, the same supposed “problems” with everyone. And even more, he sometimes got lost in what he was saying and criticizing. I then understood that it was not me who had a problem; he was the one projecting his fears onto others. Understanding this freed me. From that day on, I no longer took what he said personally. I was finally able to see the situation objectively.

2. Understand the underlying message

Sometimes I feel like people who criticize are just misunderstood. They try to give their opinion but because of their lack of tact, it is misinterpreted. From there, there is a misunderstanding. We label them as “poopers who are only there to break the spirits of others”.

Unfortunately, most people are more concerned with the “how”, i.e. how the communication is done (the words used, the tone of voice). Rather than the “what“, that is to say the message transmitted. It is true that the form is important, but you also have to know how to listen to the substance. These critical people are often abrupt and snappy, but it is we alone who choose to take what they tell us, negatively.

If critical people lack tact, it is because they lack perspective on their behavior towards others. You may be surprised, but sometimes they don’t know how they act until they see themselves in action. If you take their comments negatively when they weren’t meant to be negative, you’re sabotaging your own morale.

Instead, filter their words (and more importantly, your interpretation of their words) looking for the message behind them. What are we trying to communicate to you? Why do they say that? What are their intentions? Are they really trying to undermine your morale, or do they have higher intentions?

Behind their words can hide sound advice. If you can go beyond the “how” to look for the “what”, then you can receive interesting feedback, which will allow you to improve.

Here are two interesting things that can happen:

  • First, you will be able to stop overreacting to all criticism, you will learn to take a step back.
  • Second, you will be able to use their criticism constructively to move forward in your life, now that you know their real intentions. None of this can happen if you place too much emphasis on how they express themselves.

3. Take this as honest feedback

Honesty is always important. An honest and reliable review is better than a superficial and honeyed compliment. At least you might be able to see things you’ve missed before. For my part, I would much rather be with a direct and frank person than with someone who hypocritically flatters me to curry my favor.

Some people even pretend to be nice and supportive, when in reality they disagree. They are simply afraid of alienating you. Surely you have met this kind of people, and if they are among your friends your friendship will not last very long.

Personally, I have friends who came off as unpleasantly candid when I met them, but who later became valuable because they were true to their words.

4. Learn to be comfortable with criticism

Although criticisms reveal things about those who make them, our discomfort also reveals things about us. Which criticism particularly frustrates you? It is interesting to ask the question. Because if certain criticisms bother you, it also means that there is something to work on.

If certain comments from others make you feel uncomfortable, try to understand why you feel that way. Chances are they simply struck a chord with your internal beliefs. The next step is to find out which one.

The same thing happens in everything we face in life. The sources of discomfort must be considered as places to dig, which help us to move towards our personal development.

Ask yourself, “Why do I feel uncomfortable with his comment? Why am I unhappy with what he/she said? What bothers me so much about this?”

Keep asking yourself these questions and digging, to get closer to the source of your feelings. The first answers will surely be directed outwards, you will think for example that your discomfort comes from the differences you have with the other person.

However, the deeper you dig, the more your answers will change, becoming more and more directed towards you rather than towards others.

This means that your discomfort does not come from the person; but that there is something in you that you cannot bear. It may be a certain belief, or similar situation from the past.

The final answer should be one that helps you end your discomfort. This answer resonates within you. The one that allows you to act directly on the situation through your own actions, without hoping that others will change to conform to your expectations.

5. Don’t “ask” for opinions if you can’t stand them

If you can’t stand what the person says to you, don’t ask for their opinion. Don’t bring it up or ask him questions about it. Critics like to give their opinions, even if no one asks them, so be sure not to mention the subject in front of them.

Some of my friends often complain about people criticizing and putting them down all the time. But for some reason they keep looking for reviews. Somehow, they subconsciously expect to receive some validation and acceptance from others. And because it is very difficult to be encouraged by people who spend their time criticizing, their approval is all the more precious.

But, the natural reaction of these people who like to criticize… It is to criticize, not to praise! If you’re talking to them in the hope that they’ll respond with enthusiasm and encouragement, stop doing it. You’ve seen their behavior in action before, so don’t be surprised if they keep slamming your face.

Rita Mae Brown would tell you that “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the very definition of insanity,” and she would be right. If you keep insisting on putting yourself in the same situation over and over again, then you can only blame yourself!

6. Free yourself from their critics and ignore them

Here is an interesting story that I have heard several times already, but which I never tire of:

Buddha was known for his tremendous ability to respond to evil with good. One day he met a man who knew his reputation and had traveled a long way to test him. When he appeared before Buddha, he constantly verbally abused him. He insulted him, criticized him. He did everything he could to offend Buddha.

Yet Buddha remained impassive, he turned to the man and asked him: “Can I ask you a question?” The man replied, “Yes, what?”. Then Buddha said to him, “If someone offers you a gift and you decline it, whose is it?” The man retorted, “Well to whoever offered it.” Buddha smiled, “It is true. And if I refuse to accept your abuses, then these do not belong to you?”. The man was speechless and left.

Some people may voluntarily offer their criticisms, even when you ask them nothing. These criticisms may be out of context and/or in bad taste. You could of course take revenge and insult or criticize the other in return.

Even so, imagine that this person must have had a rather mediocre and gloomy life, to empty his bag in the first place. Your vengefulness will only invite him to comment more. Quickly your argument with the other risks degenerating and you will end up like her, embittered and bitter.

As people say so well online: “Don’t feed the trolls”. If you can’t stop them from voicing their opinions, you have the option of ignoring them. Give them a basic answer or two to show them that you’ve heard their comment, but don’t want to discuss it further.

And if the person keeps pushing you to talk about it, ignore them completely. At this point, it’s obvious that she wants to trigger a response in you. By not responding, you maintain control of the situation.

Just as critics need to take responsibility for their comments, we need to stay in control of our emotions. In every event, there is always the event itself, and our way of perceiving this event.

We cannot change the way people want to act or talk around us. On the other hand, we can change the way we behave towards them. We always have a choice. If we don’t want to accept their negativity, then we just have to refuse it. These negative emotions are not ours if we do not accept it.

7. Show them kindness

It may cause you to leap out of your chair. You’re probably thinking, “Why should I be kind to them? They cause me so much trouble. They certainly don’t deserve my kindness.”

The movie, “The Peaceful Warrior” provides an answer to this:

I found that to be a very powerful quote. That’s true, isn’t it? If you think about it, why are critical people so acerbic? Why is it so hard for them to be positive? Why do they rarely show their emotions? It is because they lack it themselves.

This is the reason why they are not able to offer it to others. And if they’re so critical of others, chances are they’ll treat themselves the same, if not more so. They don’t give themselves the love they want.

Treat them with kindness. Be generous with your emotions towards them. Give them a compliment. Smile at them. Say hello to them. Invite them to lunch with you. Help them in areas where you know they could use your help. Get to know them personally. Do not judge the effectiveness of your actions on their initial reactions.

These people may react negatively at first, only because they are taken aback by your behavior. They are likely to be suspicious, because they have rarely been treated this way. So all you have to do is continue with your kindness, and very often their attitude will change for the better.

Although the effects may not be immediate and there are only small improvements in your eyes, in their universe it is a huge change. And over time, your relationship with that person will evolve in a whole new way.

Of course, if you don’t feel able to do it, there is another solution:

8. Avoid Them Completely

When all else fails, simply avoid them. Reduce contact, limit your conversations with him/her, hang out with other people if it’s a group outing, or as a last resort, get him/her out of your life.

Even though you’re both on the same team and in the same workplace, you’re not glued to each other 24/7. Use a combination of all of the above approaches when you absolutely must interact with the other, then avoid him/her during other times.

I had a particularly embittered friend. Spending time with him was almost suffocating. No matter what I was talking about, he always found a way to add negativity to it. For example, if I shared something that I liked, he answered with a crestfallen air, that it was not worth making tons of it or that it was just normal.

In our conversations, he struggled to say anything encouraging or positive, choosing to focus only on the “bad” things. Although some sought comfort from him, it was difficult to get an empathetic response from him.

Half the time I had to prepare myself to receive a negative comment. It was for this reason that he ended up pushing his friends away, myself included, over the years.

Sometimes it just happens that you are not compatible as friends at this phase of your life. It is better for both, that you live on your own. If this relationship is causing stress and anxiety, then do yourself and the other person a favor by simply breaking the bond.

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