“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” ~ Winston Churchill.
It started way back when I was in high school. I had always been a tom boy and spent most of my time with boys on the playground. My teachers would criticize me for spending most of the time with boys rather than girls and my focus being more on sports than studies.
As I grew up, I realized my motive was to head the girls’ basket ball team. So I kept my goal in focus and ignored whatever criticism was thrown at me from teachers or my parents. I would always wonder what was so wrong with playing sport.
Ignoring criticism at that age seemed to be the only way out but in hindsight, I guess it did not always work well. Sure, I began to form my own perspectives on different things which would not match with that of others. Although this sounds great, it didn’t serve me much when I could have reached my goals faster without having to reinvent the wheel every time.
This is when I realized that even though someone may have genuine intentions of helping you out, criticism doesn’t always come gently. Yet, a lot of feedback we receive is unsolicited and comes from people around us who do care.
Lessons Learned in Criticism
I remember back in college, I was part of western dance society, when I actually made my fellow dancers uncomfortable with my defensiveness. My seniors were giving me feedback after my dance performance in front of my team and I just could not stop reacting or arguing with them.
I was afraid of being judged and I took everything as condemnation.
After a lot of trial and error, I figured you can’t control what people will say, whether they will approve or form opinions about you, but you can work on yourselves and how you respond to such situations.
You can’t choose who criticizes you or what people criticize you about. It’s very difficult to prevent criticism but controlling your reaction can easily turn a negative situation into positive one. If you spend all of your energy in decoding the criticism, then you will run out of energy very quickly.
A Positive Approach to Criticism
During my college days, it was difficult to figure how to handle all that criticism, but as I moved ahead in life, I figured I’d have to change the way I thought and reacted to situations. From school to college to professional life, I taught myself how to handle criticism positively.
Few years ago, I was at my workplace when my manager called me in his room to discuss a proposal which we were supposed to send to the client. He gave me insights on the proposal and asked me to create the same in an hour’s time. It was 7 PM already and I had to leave for my friend’s birthday party the same day but working on proposal was equally important.
So I sat down and completed the proposal in one and half hours time. I felt my manager would understand and appreciate my effort but things did not turn out the way I thought that day. My manager criticized me on every slide I had created and asked me to spend some more time and make corrections as suggested.
What do you think my reaction was? First, he gave me a last minute assignment, because of which I could not make keep my plans. Then, I had to sit late and work on something which I was not prepared to and in the end all I got was criticism! Of course, I had every right to fume, didn’t I? At least in my old world I did.
This time, I stayed poised and calm instead and decided to take the feedback constructively. I continued working on corrections as suggested. Finally, I was able to create something that was passed as satisfactory after review from the boss.
I was able to pull off the proposal because I chose not take the criticism negatively by not allowing it to affect me.
How to Handle Criticism: 5 Ways
So if you are stuck and unsure how to handle criticism at work or in your relationship, here are some ways you can use it to your advantage:
Lend all ears and try to learn from it instead of getting defensive. Really listen first.
2. Think straight and respond calmly
After hearing the other person out, reflect whether the criticism was useful. Accordingly, with all due respect, thank the person.
- It’s important to respond rather than react to criticism.
- Try to stay composed and revert with a smile.
3. Don’t take it personally
Try to remove yourself from situation and focus on what is being critiqued.
For example, if you decided to lose some weight in 6 months but after couple of months it did not work according to the plan. You may be criticized by your near and dear ones. But you don’t have to get affected by all comments.
Instead, take it as a reminder to work harder on yourself and apply different methods which will help you reduce your weight faster.
4. Learn from it
Almost every critique gives you a tool to more effectively create the future you visualize. Think of it this way: With positive criticism, you are now aware of different perspectives which could give you more food for thought and better ways to finish your tasks.
5. Know yourself better
Criticism represents only one person’s point of view. Eventually it’s up to you how you take it. You can apply what works and discard the rest.
Know strengths and weaknesses well to put criticism to use and to your advantage.
What strategies do you find are most helpful when you have to handle criticism? Share your tips in your comment below!
Image by Pink Sherbet Photography.