Everyone is entitled to their opinion, right? But are you required to listen to their opinion? To be honest, most of us only want to hear how right we are not what we are doing wrong. Give me a thumbs up and I will sit and chat for a while. Give me a list of what all I could do to improve and I will be tuning you out before you can make your first point.
Knowing how to handle criticism is a skill. Learning and growing from criticism is an added bonus. You will never be able to silence all of your critics, so might as well develop a plan to better handle your next critique.
1. Stay calm
Criticism hurts. When someone verbally lashes out at you, it feels as if you are under attack. Your breathing speed up, your heart beats faster, and your muscles begin to tight as your body prepares to fight back. Rather than allow these emotions to escalate, regain control. Do not respond immediately but rather take a 10 second pause to take one deep breath to exhale all feeling of insult out. Staying calm puts you in the best position for successfully maneuvering through criticism.
2. Accept that no one is perfect
It would be great if we were always right and always had the best way of doing everything. Even you and I sometimes miss the mark. It’s ok to not be right all the time. Give yourself permission to have an off day. No one is perfect. Sometimes criticism is justified. Listen to what the criticizing party has to say, and then objectively evaluate its validity. You don’t have to agree with them, just be open enough to accept that we are all perfectly imperfect.
3. Know your own self-worth
Having someone voice that you did not do something right leaves a taste of failure on all of our tongues. It’s very easy to move from criticism to self-doubt. Avoid the desire to apply this criticism of your work to your personal worth. Know your value as an individual. Do not allow criticism to define your self-worth, but rather focus on your personal strengths and attributes. You are a unique individual and sometimes uniqueness is criticized because it is uncharted territory. Your new and creative way of accomplishing a task may have been met with criticism initially only to become a future success as others grasp your vision.
4. Focus on what you can gain from the experience
Criticism can be beneficial. Whether or not you agree with their assessment, hearing their opinion can give you insight on areas that may benefit from some tweaking. Use the criticism as a way to evaluate the pros and cons of a situation. Focus on what you can learn from the encounter and use it to your benefit.
5. Thank the person giving the criticism
Yes you heard me right, thank them. Occasionally criticism will come from someone who is being malicious, but more often it’s from those who actually see your potential and want to bring out the best you have to offer. Thank them for taking an interest in your personal growth and development. Despite their intentions, you will ultimately benefit from the experience by becoming more secure in your ability to handle criticism with poise.
Saundra Dalton-Smith is an internal medicine physician, author, speaker, and hope activist. She shares with audiences nationwide on the topics of eliminating limiting emotions and helps them see their options in life. She is the founder of I Choose My Best Life, a movement to renew hope in a generation where depression, stress, and fear is peaking. Her books include Set Free to Live Free: Breaking Through the 7 Lies Women Tell Themselves (2011) and Come Empty: Healing For Every Place Life’s Hurt You (2014).