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How to Handle Criticism Like a Pro

How to Handle Criticism Like a Pro
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It’s hard to feel warm and fuzzy inside when our karaoke rendition of “Call Me Maybe” receives 100 mean YouTube comments. But it’s important to take criticism in stride. Being able to hear people’s opinions can improve our relationships, academic performance, and job satisfaction [1] [2]. Find out how to handle what others have to say without shedding a tear.

Hurtful or Helpful? — Why It Matters

Criticism’s a term for judgment or evaluation, good or bad. And it can pop up everywhere: from college papers, to personal blogs, to family get-togethers and chats with friends. (That dress does not look good on you. But have a great date!) There are lots of reasons why people offer criticism, like feeling jealous or insecure in a romantic relationship: You always forget to call! At work, organization leaders may also use criticism to help employees improve their work (and make them tremble before approaching the boss’s office).

But not all criticism is bad news bears. Constructive criticism — offering thoughtful feedback — can help us gain valuable insight into our actions and increase trust between people [3] [4]. Among college students, constructive criticism (here’s how this paragraph could be better) may boost that GPA more than deconstructive criticism (this paper is awful). On the other hand, deconstructive criticism — the “you suck!” kind — involves accusing people and pointing out their faults without suggestions for improvement. Unsurprisingly, deconstructive criticism can hurt people’s self-esteem, making them feel guilty for not performing up to par. But whether criticism is useful or just plain humiliating, there are ways to deal with it and move on.

Do This, Not That — Your Action Plan

Being sensitive to criticism can be a sticky situation. Sometimes people may even stop working toward a goal out of fear of being critiqued. But don’t give in to those worries about potential critiques. Here are some helpful tips to handle any kind of criticism that heads our way:

  • Listen up. Figure out whether the criticism is constructive or simply rude. You may feel hurt when your partner says you’re controlling, but having him point out this flaw may help you change and ultimately save the relationship. If criticism could be helpful, lend all ears and try to learn from it instead of getting defensive.
  • Respond calmly. Be respectful no matter what, and thank someone if the feedback is useful [5]. If the critique is uncalled for (that story you wrote was crap!), kill em with kindness. A simple smile makes you the bigger person.
  • Don’t take it personally. Try to remove yourself from the situation and focus on what’s being critiqued. That C+ midterm doesn’t reflect your A+ personality! Instead, it’s a reminder to study a little harder next time, skip all that partying the night before, or realize that calculus simply isn’t your biggest strength.
  • Manage stress. When we’re constantly on edge, we can feel out of control and unable to respond to criticism with a clear head. So take a deeeep breath to keep those stress levels in check.
  • Keep on keepin on’. Remember that the criticism represents just one person’s point of view. Know what your strengths are and don’t let other people’s opinions keep you from working hard towards a goal. If somebody says you’re too short to be a power forward, start working on that jump shot!

What strategies do you find are most helpful when dealing with criticism? Share your stories below!

Works Cited +

  1. Productive criticism. Part 1: Criticism that works. Weisinger, H.D. Clinical Laboratory Management Association, 1995 Nov-Dec;9(6):456-62.
  2. Impact of feeling responsible for adverse events on doctors' personal and professional lives: the importance of being open to criticism from colleagues.
  3. Productive criticism. Part 1: Criticism that works. Weisinger, H.D. Clinical Laboratory Management Association, 1995 Nov-Dec;9(6):456-62.
  4. Impact of feeling responsible for adverse events on doctors' personal and professional lives: the importance of being open to criticism from colleagues. Aasland, O,G., Forde, R. The Research Institute, The Norwegian Medical Association, Oslo, Norway. Quality and Safety in Health Care, 2005 Feb;14(1):13-7.
  5. Taking criticism. Dowd, S.B., Davidhizar, R. The Journal of Practical Nursing, 2006 Summer;56(2):21-3; quiz 24-5.

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