Nine Tips for Dealing Calmly with Criticism

We can have a very hard time being criticized, corrected, or accused – even of the smallest mistakes. One client succinctly said: “it feels like an attack on my character, my very person”. Here are some of the strategies to use to accept criticism.

  1. Listen to what a critic is saying. Really listen, try to understand that point of view, don’t just nod while you formulate your retorts.
  2. Don’t be defensive. This is the toughest step for me. With my writing, for example, I always have to take a deep breath and remind myself, “I welcome criticism. This person is helping me. I want to hear how to improve my book/article/post.”
  3. Act the way you want to feel. It’s really uncannily effective; acting friendly and eager to learn makes me feel friendlier and more eager to learn.
  4. Don’t fire back by criticizing your critic. Your comments will just sound defensive, and you’ll escalate the exchange. This urge is very difficult to resist, because the impulse to justify and attack is strong when you feel criticized, but it isn’t helpful, and it certainly isn’t effective.
  5. Delay your reaction. Count to ten, take a deep breath, sleep on it, wait until the next day to send that email…any kind of delay is good. I find it’s much easier to apply this rule when I’m responding in writing. I’ve trained myself to think long and hard before hitting “send” or “enter.”
  6. Explain honestly the reason for your actions. Sometimes it’s tempting to re-characterize your actual feelings, actions, and motives. Usually, though, that just complicates things more. It becomes impossible to have an honest exchange.
  7. Admit your mistakes.
  8. Explain what you’ve learned. If you can show a critic that you’ve learned something, you prove that you’ve understood the criticism and tried to act on it. That, itself, usually mollifies critics.
  9. Re-frame the issue entirely to embrace criticism. Fact is, trying new things and aiming high opens you to criticism. You wanted to grow, and accepting criticism can be part of the process.

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