10 Ways To Handle Any Criticism Like A Pro

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You face critics both in the real world and the internet world. They may not always say it in words that directly sting, or even use no words at all, but you understand what they want to convey.

We often boast we can handle criticism like a pro when the criticism is fair. But as soon as we face a harsh remark, we react in a way we said we could never do. The truth is, many of us do not know how to handle an opinion that finds a fault in us. Criticism breaks our rhythm and shorts our peace.

10 Ways To Handle Criticism Like A Pro

Handle Criticism Like Expert

Instead of giving up in frustration in the face of criticism, you could use one of the following approaches to handle criticism like a pro:

1. Let Go Of Your Egoism

There is a famous anecdote that when McDonald’s trains its recruits, it tells them that the harsh words they’re going to hear from the customers are directed at their aprons, not their persons. So, they should let go of your egos when they hear criticism.

If you’re going to take everything personally, you’re going to remain offended for most of your life. Instead, understand that it was your position that got criticized, not you. This makes you trust yourself back again to handle the situation better.

2. Show Your Positive Attitude

Take criticism as a springboard for self-development. Show a positive attitude. Stay positive, demonstrating you can take the feedback seriously and can make improvements.

3. Be Mindful Of Other Things

Do not let the criticism seep deep into your brain. Shift your attention from words and the tone that are muddling up your thinking, and start to note things and activities that are on around you.

Practice being mindful of your immediate environment.

4. Respond With Novel Solutions

Think of innovative pathways to deal with the situation. Try to uncover novel solutions once your clarity of thinking has returned. Do this to find out fresh ways to deal with the criticism — ask questions to clarify what they mean actually. It will give you new insights.

Ask yourself, “Hey, is this criticism even valid?”

5. Step Back To See The Big Pic

Step back and try to see the big picture. (Yeah, I know, everybody doles out this advice. But it works.) Try to re-think the whole situation while labeling your reactions: “I’m hurt” or “I’m angry” or “I’m reacting too much.”

And try to weigh out your options, “I can leave now and come back to this conversation later when I’m calm.”

6. Practice To Ignore Criticism

Imagine beforehand and rehearse your best reactions. Practicing works like magic. B. F. Skinner, the father of Operant Conditioning, found in 1948 that behavior that gets reinforced gets strengthened; and behavior that is not reinforced tends to die out. It’s difficult to listen to the message is beneath the tone of your boss or your spouse, but with practice, it can come easily.

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√ A useful technique: Practice ignoring the criticism and the criticizer. So, the next time you face criticism from them, you already know how to put up your “best response.”

7. Leave, Think, Return

Bite the bullet and excuse yourself from the situation. Don’t respond then and there. This is the most important rule of handling criticism like an expert: however hard it is to accept, do not react at that moment. Once you step away, you create a distance between the words and the speaker.

When this distance is there, you feel safer and your mind opens up. Now, you could walk around a bit to process your emotions. Then use logic to consider what they said, and return to carry the talk further.

This is the best advice for anyone wanting to know how to handle criticism positively.

Remember, while you can’t control what others will say to you or about you, you sure can work towards controlling how you respond. The key is to train yourself to respond, not react.

8. Stay Impersonal

If you’re going to take everything personally, you’re going to remain offended for most of your life. Instead, understand that it was your position that got criticized, not you. This makes you trust yourself back again to handle the situation better.

9. Shift Your Focus

Do not let the criticism seep deep into your brain. Shift your attention from words and the tone that are muddling up your thinking, and start to note things and activities that are on around you. Practice being mindful of your immediate environment.

10. Keep Your Cool

However much unpleasant is the criticism, bear it without any immediate reaction. Don’t respond then and there. This is the most important rule of handling criticism.

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And step away from the situation. Once you step away, you create a distance between the words and the speaker. With this distance, you feel safer and your mind opens up. Now, you could use logic to consider what they said, and return to carry the talk further.

handle-criticism-like-expert
If you're going to take everything personally, you're going to remain offended for most of your life. – Anon Click To Tweet

What does it mean to handle criticism positively?

The first lesson in handling criticism positively is to not take it personally and see every critical evaluation as a chance to grow. The path to your growth and success begins with criticism because critics can often see your blind spots.

We can always take positive feedback, and even negative feedback, as a signal that people are interested in helping us get better. It’s even worse when people notice you are doing a terrible job and do not say a word.

As the Stoic philosophers told us, we cannot control what others do or talk about us. What we can control is how we think about what they say. Then we can choose to discard it or internalize it, respond to it properly, learn from it, and apply it.

Always try to use the criticism as a learning crutch. It can help you learn how others perceive you. It can also be a test whether you can use it to improve yourself or your interpersonal skills. We can always learn from our mistakes. And in learning how to deal with the criticism for our mistakes, we can enrich our relationships with others.

Indeed, we can learn positive lessons from criticism if we are patient and ready to seek them out.


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How does the body handle criticism?

The reason so many people can’t handle criticism, especially a scathing criticism, because it brings on their acute stress response system into immediate play.

I can tell what happens to me when I face a particularly acerbic criticism. It comes as a hard slap on my pride, confidence, and self-esteem. Almost, it feels as if a 1,000-pound bull is hurtling towards me. Within an instant, my flight-fight-freeze response system jolts to action.

You may also call it my acute stress response. This is when my sympathetic nervous system goes into high alert. And it triggers the release of two chemicals — adrenaline and noradrenaline — by the two glands attached to our kidneys. Then starts a cascade of physical reactions.

Thereafter, what happens is this: the heart races, the face flushes, the pupils dilate, and the hands shake. Let me rush to add that this happens before I realize this is happening. It’s so fast.

Most of the times, this happens in subtle ways. But when the criticism is high on offensive, your flight-or-fight system snaps on full throttle. Like the raging hulk of a monster truck firing on all cylinders.

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Here’s an interesting fact. When lab rats get threatened under controlled conditions, they do two things:

  1. Run to escape when there’s a way, or
  2. Rise to fight when there’re cornered.

Humans are not much different. In general, men respond to a perceived threat with aggression. While women respond by fleeing, seeking help, or trying to defuse the situation. But those are not water-tight rules for any gender.

How does the mind handle criticism?

When we’re presented with an idea we disagree with, the logic processing part of the brain shuts down. So, we’re unable to show a reasonable amount of rational behavior after a criticism.

We talked of body reactions. Now, what happens to your mind when it senses a criticism as a threat to your self-esteem and self-worth?

  1. You shift focus to the negative side of yourself, and of the other person.
  2. Your self-respect gets dented, and a feeling of insecurity grips you.
  3. You lose respect for the other person and start to fear or hate them.
  4. Your reaction towards them is anxiety or anger ridden, and you do things you later regret.
  5. You stonewall and helplessly absorb all the negative criticism in anguish.

In short, it makes you feel miserable.

One thing: Why do we remember a harsh criticism for a long time, but often forget generous praise? Because our brains are more responsive to threats than rewards.

Final Words

Most of the criticisms are biased, we know. And some people are critical by nature. Still, not all your critics are there to find faults with you. Some will actually wish you well and want you to improve. You could learn from them and grow. Remember what Malcolm X said,

“If you have no critics, you’ll likely have no success.”

quote-Malcolm-X-no-critics-no-success

And there will be times when you are the one to criticize. For such times, always keep in mind this advice by the psychologists: Target the behavior, not the person.

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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy – a medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related medical topics.


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