Dealing with Criticism

“If you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you”

Rudyard Kipling

This is a line from famous poem “If.”. Many can identify with the words and understand the frustration of being misunderstood or unfairly judged.

Almost every day either we or someone we love experience this frustration. Faced with being misunderstood we respond. How we respond is according to the poem, the measure of our manhood (equally womanhood). Learning to respond to criticism and to deal with the negative things is a step to maturity and personal development. 

Criticism is an attack on our self-esteem and our defensive attitude is the way we try to protect ourselves from a painful experience. Just as we put up our hands to prevent ourselves being physically hurt, we put up our defensive attitude to protect our emotional or mental health. 

This defensive attitude may either take on an apologetic attitude. We make apologies for our behavior or those of others. It may also take on an attacking attitude. This is where we look for ways of blaming others for the situation so we can share the blame and perhaps take some of the heat off our role in the situation. 

What are some positive ways we can respond to criticism so the negative reaction we instinctively feel can become positive in our life and a tool for self development and personal maturity? 

Ways in dealing with criticism;

  1. Look at any incident of criticism. As an opportunity for learning and self growth not as an attack on your self-esteem. 
  2. Anger that eventuates from criticism has the risk of becoming a grudge against the person delivering the criticism. Thus creating its own set of problems. Make a determined effort to forgive the person and actively seek to work with them to negotiate a solution you are both satisfied with.
  3. When you receive criticism try to take a step back before you respond. Thank them for their words, tell them you will consider what they have said, and to discuss it with them later. This approach enables both parties to calm emotions, discuss the situation later when both have had a chance to think about it.
  4. Think about the criticism; ask yourself if it is justified. If it is, then seek ways to prevent the situation recurring. If it is not, take steps to refute it calmly and preferably with evidence. 
  5. Don’t dwell on the criticism but move on. One piece of critical opinion can not determine your value. 

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