Elbert Hubbard said, “If we want to avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” The problem with this is, mostly every person who is reading this post desires to make a positive impact in the world. Therefore, you are going to be criticized. You will be criticized for what you do, what you say, how you live, the way you lead, the way you speak, the way you parent, and the way you run your department. Some of that criticism will be justified and some will not. That’s not the most important part of criticism. How we handle it determines the trajectory of our growth as parents, spouses, friends, employees, communicators, and leaders.
Most of us have a typical negative emotional response of anxiety to criticism, whether it is real or imagined, self-directed or from someone else. Some of us even panic when we are criticized by others, and we become defensive, deny the criticism, and we end up being manipulated into defending what we want to do instead of doing it. I have not always handled or coped with criticism in a way that displayed maturity, but I have been developing the following skills and attitudes to help me handle criticism better:
1. Agree with any truth in statements that people use to criticize me and determine how I can grow.
2. Listen to exactly what the critic says, not to what’s implied.
3. Respond only to what the critic says, not what the criticism implies or my interpretation of the criticism.
4. Don’t interpret what is said to conform to my own insecurities and self-doubt.
5. Accept my mistakes and errors and see them as just that.
6. Realize that my mistakes and errors do not define me as a person.
7. Realize that God does not condemn or criticize me for my sins, mistakes and errors.
Next time you’re criticized for something, walk through this list. The result of developing these skills, we can cut our learned emotional puppet strings that cause us to react negatively to criticism from others and become whole, fully effective, free people.
What is your typical response to criticism? What other skills of handling criticism have you learned and can add to this list?
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