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9. How to Be a Person Who Can Handle Criticism

Learning to Use Confrontation as an Opportunity to Grow


"Criticism is something you can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing." -- Aristotle

Learning to correctly handle criticism, whether receiving or giving it, is one of the most difficult lessons for a People Person. No one likes to be criticized, and most of us don't like offering constructive criticism because we are afraid of confrontation. But as a People Person, effectively navigating this challenge will determine our success in our relationships with others.

The first thing we need to acknowledge when facing criticism is our attitude.

If we face criticism with a negative attitude or fear, we respond poorly and will likely sabotage our relationships -- with ourselves, our people, and our work. Don't allow the threat of criticism to be an obstacle on your road to development and success. If we, instead, look at criticism as an opportunity to learn, we will be better equipped to respond positively and will likely strengthen our relationships as a result; criticism is another opportunity to grow and become better as a result.

We shouldn't ask, "Will I face criticism?" but rather, "How can I handle criticism well?"

6 Tips for receiving criticism

1. Understand the difference between constructive and destructive criticism.

Consider whether the criticism is meant to build or tear you up. Consider and learn from it if it is intended to build you up. If it's intended to tear you down, let it go, and don't internalize it.

2. Don't take yourself too seriously.

You will make mistakes, even silly ones. Accepting that your capacity for error doesn't change your value or skill will help you be more relaxed when receiving criticism.

3. Look beyond the criticism to see the critic.

First, consider if your critic is someone with good character you respect. Second, what is their consistent attitude -- are they often critical, or are they generally positive? Third, are they alone, or are others offering the same criticism?

4. Keep physically, mentally, and emotionally in shape.

Suppose you are physically exhausted, sporting a bad attitude, or emotionally triggered. In that case, your response will likely not be at its best because your view of the world and ability to cope will be distorted.

5. Surround yourself with positive people.

When given the option, spend as much time as possible with positive people who will build you up. If it takes three positive experiences to overcome one negative experience, give yourself every opportunity to bounce back. Also, positivity is contagious, so it will help you ward off a critical spirit too.

6. Concentrate on your mission, change your mistakes.

Recognize that you can do hard things, even if you make mistakes. It is often easier to give up in the face of criticism. But keep your mission in mind, acknowledge that you will make mistakes, learn from every one, and finish well.

"Correction does much, but encouragement does more. Encouragement after censure is as the sun after a shower." -- Goethe

6 Tips for offering criticism

1. Check your motive.

The goal of any criticism should be to help, not harm. Consider if the issue personally impacts you, if you are trying to make yourself look better, and how your criticism will help the person grow and develop.

2. Make sure the issue is worthy of criticism.

Are you being critical, or will your criticism matter? Don't get distracted by petty complaints, but keep your eyes on the goal of adding value to others and helping them reach their potential.

3. Be specific and timely.

Remember to always criticize in private and be specific -- tactfully say precisely what you mean and give relevant examples to offer context.

4. Attack the problem, not the person.

Remember that the person has value, whether or not they are getting everything right. Ensure your criticism is about finding a solution, not making a personal attack. This will not only build up the person you are criticizing but also help you maintain your credibility.

5. Don't compare one person with another.

Comparisons will always cause resentment and hostility. Recognize that not everyone is the same -- in personality, strengths, or methods -- and tailor your constructive criticism to the individual and not based on anyone else.

6. Look at yourself before looking at others.

John Maxwell always says, "Instead of putting others in their place, put yourself in their place." Consider the situation from the other person's point of view before offering criticism, and you might find that you need to change instead.

Consider the following questions:

  • When was the last time you received criticism?

    • How could you have handled it better?

    • How can you grow from that experience?

  • When was the last time you offered criticism?

    • How could you have handled it better?

    • How can you grow from that experience?

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