From time to time, everyone will have to deal with criticism. There probably isn’t a single person on the planet who enjoys receiving a harsh critique of their best efforts. Other than running off to live as a hermit in a cave, what can we do to avoid it?
Unfortunately, the only sane thing we can do is learn how to accept the criticism as gracefully as we can, even with appreciation. At least by learning to accept criticism with a positive attitude, we can feel fully in control and not like a helpless victim.
Here are a few ideas on how to accept criticism with appreciation:
1. Keep yourself from reacting too quickly.
When dealing with criticism, first reactions are rarely helpful. If the criticism was particularly cruel or unjust, we may want to strike back at the critic with our own harsh words. Or worse.
Under other circumstances, we may feel compelled to defend ourselves or justify our actions.
Neither response is constructive.
The longer we can delay blowing up or striking back, the better chance we have of cooling off until we’re in a state of mind where we can respond more positively.
2. Take a moment to figure out what the critic’s motivation was.
Most of the time, criticism has everything to do with the critic and very little to do with us. Yes, if we made a mistake or caused an accident, we have to take responsibility.
But what about the person who criticizes a writer for misspelling a word? Or the person who slams someone on social media for voicing an opinion the critic doesn’t agree with? There are a million petty reasons for people to criticize. And very few legitimate criticisms that are even worth the time you spend feeling bad.
If the thing you are being criticized for is petty, then you are better off letting it go. Smile at the pathetic nature of the criticism, realize that it says more about the critic than it does about you and go about your day knowing you’re the better person.
3. Acknowledge your critic.
Very often, if we take a moment to consider the criticism from the other person’s perspective, we can defuse the situation. Saying something like, “Thank you for your candidness. I hear what you’re saying…you didn’t like the way I paired white wine with filet mignon.”
Of course, translate that into words that would actually sound natural coming from you. The point is, sometimes it makes people feel a whole lot better to know that you heard them. And that can be all it takes to make someone feel contrite and apologetic if their criticism was over the top.
4. Learn from it.
Even if the criticism was petty, there may still be something to take away from it that you can use to improve yourself. And if the criticism was legitimate, however poorly worded, then you definitely owe it to yourself to use this new knowledge to your advantage.
As soon as you release the need to always be right about everything, you allow yourself the chance to learn and grow from the experience. Being wrong never feels good. And there are times that the critic’s entire approach to the issue can be more offensive than constructive, but that doesn’t mean that person didn’t have a valid point.
5. Know that every person you come across is fighting an inner battle you know nothing about.
That comes from an old saying that often gets passed around social media. There’s some truth to it, though. It goes back to understanding that the criticism often has more to do with the critic than with the person being criticized.
Someone having a bad day (or a string of bad days) is just not in the state of mind to be able to deal with every little bump in the road rationally. Sometimes allowing the criticism to wash over us without taking it personally, is the easiest way to appreciate how good our lives really are.