Handling Criticism

9:09:00 AM

Hello everyone! After having, what I call “The Writer’s Block”; it’s feels good to be back writing again!

Let me start this post with a question, have you ever been criticized for anything? It may have been something you said or did. It's not been pretty, has it? 
Recently, I was criticized for something I had said to a person. My response towards the criticism that came was overtly poor. I went into a ‘self-defense’ mode and had an answer to everything that was said about me. 

We have all been criticized at some point or the other in our lives. And frankly, I don't know how many of us really take criticism that well.  
Criticism is negative and is not something anyone wants to hear. It can be very painful especially when it comes unexpectedly.

And yet, how we respond to criticism determines our level of success in any field.

David Brinkley says, “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him."

It’s crucial that we respond positively to criticism that comes our way. I have noticed two things can happen when we don't respond positively to criticism that comes our way:
  • We miss out on things being said that could actually make us better.
  • We stop communication from people and in the process become unapproachable.
We need to realize that criticism only makes us better than we are and therefore respond positively.
So how do we respond to criticism in a way that benefits us?

1. Have the right attitude.
Why criticism goes unheard most of the time, is because of our attitude. It could be towards the person or towards what’s being said.
Catherine Doucette says, “Every person in this life has something to teach me – and as soon as I accept that, I open myself to truly listening.” 
When we develop that kind of attitude, we open ourselves to what’s being said. It doesn't matter from whom or where it comes. We begin to develop a teachable attitude and thereby appreciate the message being spoken.

2. Listen to the criticism.
When I was being criticized, I was already working out in my mind what I had to say to defend myself. And every time, my mistakes were pointed out, I used to interrupt to say why I did what I did.

Listen! Simply, silently listen! Don’t interrupt or retort! Wait for the person to complete what they are saying so that we can get their perspective of the whole matter.

3. Listen to the critic.
There is a whole lot of difference when it comes to listening to the critic and the criticism. We need to learn to separate the two.

Will Smith in the movie Hitch says this, “Sixty percent of all human communication is nonverbal, body language; thirty percent is your tone. So that means that ninety percent of what you're saying ain't coming out of your mouth.”

Why is the critic saying what they are saying? Is it to build us up or to tear us down? What does it gain the critic by telling us this? These are questions that we need to ponder over.

4. Appreciate them
How we respond to what’s been said is the most important part of handling criticism. When I was listening, like I mentioned earlier, I had already worked up my defense and when the time came for me to respond, I blurted out all my defensive statements. 

We need to start by appreciating them genuinely for bringing it up. Appreciation shows that we are open to what they are saying and have accepted them as a person. It opens doors to further communication with them.

5. Acknowledge, Elucidate and Analyze
What’s being spoken about us: it may not be entirely true; perhaps it was perceived incorrectly although our intentions were good. Whatever it may be, the best way to respond to criticism is to acknowledge/ admit that we have said or done it. Ask forgiveness to those who may have been hurt by us.

Elucidate it later. Carefully go over what was spoken and explain your reasoning with them.

Later analyze what was spoken and make changes where necessary. Criticism often carries an element of truth. When we modify ourselves in those areas, we only become better as time goes by.

6. Don't swallow it.
Never let the criticism condemn you so much that you feel that everything you have done is pointless. That's not true. Don't let the voice of condemnation take over.

In his book “God in My Corner”, former heavy weight boxing champion George Foreman writes,
“Someone once told me, 'No one spears a dead fish.' Its only when you are alive that people will start throwing their spears. Criticism is a part of the package that comes with success.
Don't let personal attacks on you determine how you feel. When you are on the bottom, people will treat you like you are on the bottom. But if you are on the bottom and you see yourself on top, their hateful comments won't bother you.”

What are your thoughts on handling criticism? How have you dealt with it?

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  1. The most basic thing is "Don't let other people control your life". In any field; be it your profession, family, political views or anything under the sun. You can listen to opinions and suggestions, but the sole decision maker should be YOU. Because, the actions/stance/decision is taken by you and you have the responsibility to stand by it.

    1. Well said Aurif!Welcome here!
      The sole decision maker is you. And you have the responsibility to stand by the decisions that you make... good or bad...right or wrong... which is an area not many people are good at!

  2. WHat a beautiful post, Danny! My usual knee jerk reaction to criticism is to defend myself, but I catch myself in time, and hear the other person out. Also, most important that you can add to your list is, try to remember the intentions of the person as well. Your best friend would not criticize you to put you down. In fact, he/she would want the best for you. Your boss might or might not have a financial agenda while criticizing you, but you can always be on the safe side when taking a person's intentions into consideration.
    How have you been, Danny?

    1. HEy Punam!Thanks a lot!
      Good to see you after a long while! Most of us respond by defending ourselves!
      Like that thing which you said about the boss... Guess this takes place a lot at the corporate sector! Where the boss normally has a lot of agendas in mind!

      Been doing great Punam! Watch out for the next couple of posts... have a surprise coming!

  3. This is a brilliant, well thought out article Dan. Oh wait, first things first.. good to see you writing again :D

    I usually shy away from confrontation. But I do take criticism to heart. I agonize over it - wondering why the person didnt like me or my effort. But now things have changed, i guess - I dont really focus too much on it. Those who matter mean well when they say, others say it just for the joy of seeing your pain. There is no attempt in the latter to try to improve you.

    I guess that distinction is necessary rather than endlessly trying to please the wrong people.

    1. Just noticed this got marked off as spam! (How dare they! Your higness!)
      Thanks for the second comment later too!
      Yup we need to bring up the topic with others rather than staying away from it!

  4. There are those who criticize you genuinely as in they say things you could improve upon in their perspective . There are those whose sole purpose in life is to demean you or demoralize you . One just needs to know the difference :)

    1. Well said Jaish! Nice to see you here!
      And that's exactly the point! We need to learn to say why people criticize us the way they do... What are their intentions behind what they say....

  5. I used to take it to heart always.. it took me a long time to realise the difference between heartfelt criticism and just spiteful stuff. As for retaliating , well.. I tend to be non-confrontational. Not always a plus point though..

    1. Yeah, Radha... I used to do that earlier too... and go down completely. But realizing that criticism only builds us up is a big thing...
      Confrontation is necessary at times especially when there's no truth involved at all...

  6. Earlier, I too went into defensive mode but now, I take the good from it and move on. Honestly speaking, we must also distinguish what is constructive and what is not. Some people criticize without proper knowledge on the subject, which tends to waste your time.

    1. Hey Saru!
      We all tend to be defensive most of the time! And yes, that's true! Which is why we need to listen sometimes to what they are saying to get their perspective and put it off if they have no idea!

  7. Nice post.. I was and I have always been bad at handling criticism.. I was never defensive but whatever little said I always took it to my heart.. I wonder why so many people criticise you when one is wrong and so less people to applaud when one does a good deed.. However I learnt from this post that criticism is necessary too..one gets to learn a lot in the end.. Lovely post.. New to your blog.. Following you.. Keep writing..!!

    1. Hi Priya!
      Thanks a lot and welcome aboard!
      YEs, it's not easy to take criticism and yeah have wondered that too as to why not many applauds us when we do the right thing...
      But criticism is always an opportunity to learn!

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