Five Ways to Handle Criticism


Plenty of people are critical, and you’re bound to be on the receiving end of their judgments at times. Dealing with unexpected or poorly delivered criticism, though, is hard unless you know how to respond constructively. Here are five ways to cope and build better relationships, or at least grow in understanding, when someone expresses disapproval.

Is your interpretation correct?

Some people don’t have great communication skills and fail to offer useful advice kindly. They mean well, but the way they deliver their message stinks.

At other times, you might misunderstand helpful guidance because it touches on a nerve. If the topic at hand comes with an emotional charge, you’re likely to react negatively rather than understand the intended meaning.

Rather than get upset when criticized, consider whether a positive objective lies beneath misunderstood words. Perhaps advice was phrased unhelpfully, or you didn’t understand what was said. If you aren’t sure, ask for clarification.

Consider whether the criticism is justified

Someone might point out your mistakes, so you can make amends. If you don’t listen because you’re affronted, you won’t learn and grow.

Instead of flying off the handle when you’re criticized, think about whether there’s any truth in what you’re told. Can you use it to help you improve?

Don’t take criticism to heart

It’s easy to get upset when someone criticizes you, especially if you would rather impress them or you imagine their judgment is unjustified. Nonetheless, if you are overemotional, you can’t think straight. Improving matters when you’re anxious is hard.

Whether or not criticism is warranted, don’t take it personally. You can use it to improve circumstances or ignore it. Either way, there’s no gain to be enjoyed from getting stressed.

Use criticism for personal growth

If you feel slighted when someone is critical, contemplate the underlying meaning of your reaction. Consider why the criticism bothers you so much rather than focusing on how affronted you feel.

Has a raw spot from your emotional history been touched? Perhaps an old issue, relating to the present one, has reared its head and requires attention.

Or, resentment might have already built toward the person delivering criticism. In which case, it’s time to mend your relationship with better communication or walk away.

Teach people how to treat you

Sometimes, it’s best to teach critical people how to treat you. If someone uses harsh words and speaks out of turn, explain how their method of communicating with you is unhelpful. Then describe how you would rather they speak to you.

Be thoughtful. After all, you want to be a good role model. Frame what you say kindly and clearly, so the other person can accept it with ease.

If a friend is often overcritical and you want them to stop, for instance, you might say “I’m sure you mean well, but when you find fault with me I feel upset. Our relationship will benefit if you focus on positives rather than what you dislike.”

What if they refuse to listen though? If they won’t take your words on-board, waiting until they are more receptive may help. Then again, they might never want to hear you and you’ll benefit from cutting off or reducing contact with them.

Criticism can be hard to handle, but with a few helpful responses up your sleeve, you’ll have the confidence to cope. Remember, most people mean well when they offer advice. Even when they don’t, however, you can use their criticism to your advantage; let it aid personal growth.