Responding to Criticism

Criticism is a reality whether we like it or not. We can work to become more of a contributor to the solution by decreasing our own criticizing ways - but you and I know that many people are not interested in changing their ways.

So what do we do when someone levels criticism at us?

My first instinct is to give up, defend myself or lash out. This is why first instincts are often so destructive. Here are some other options:

First and foremost, get curious about the source of the criticism. Some critics are not worth your engagement. Critics on social media do not know us and we do not know them. People who we know only tangentially, or who have taught us that they are unreliable narrators, or dare I say it? People you already do not trust? These folks are not going to be helpful to engage with - even if their criticism may have validity. It is ok to tell the truth and admit that sometimes there are people we simply cannot accept feedback from. It’s ok to know this and act on it. Don’t take the bait!! Save your conversations for folks who have invested in your life and have earned your trust.

Is the criticism of an anonymous or random critic valid? Maybe. File it away or take it to trusted individuals for processing. But without a trusting relationship, the exchange of information will be less than helpful. Particularly when there are witnesses to the criticism, and if the witnesses are reliable sources, we can ask them for feedback. We can pause to prepare and consider the criticism.

When the deliverer of the criticism does a super bad job, is an unreliable narrator, or a stranger - we can redeem the exchange for good, even if we feel as if the criticism was unfair. Many times I have learned from criticism and applied it in future relationships, even if the delivery system was faulty. I may do my due diligence and discover that their criticism was not supported by others who know me well AND discover legitimate issues that need to be addressed.

Criticism is hard to take - that’s for sure. But we can grow into a more secure, comfortable way of living with criticism as we find acceptance of our own humanity and reduce our need for perfection or approval.

How do you handle criticism? What can you change that will help you in situations when you are criticized?