How to Deal with Criticism Positively – Turn it into Constructive Criticism

How to Deal with Criticism Positively – Turn it into Constructive Criticism

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None of us likes being criticized. Our ability to maintain perspective and gain from criticism is a skill that does not come naturally to us.


Let’s face it, none of us likes being criticized.

Regardless of the reasons or the validity of the criticism, it feels like a blow to our basic desire to be liked, accepted and appreciated. And because we’re biologically programmed to avoid negativity like the plague, our ability to maintain perspective and gain from criticism is a skill that does not come naturally to us.

how to deal with criticism positively
Hey Perfectionist, I’m talking to you!

Nurturing this ability is to our advantage, especially in the competitive and emotionally charged workplaces of the 21st century, where the drive to succeed may blind us to our own faults. 

Having an outside perspective on a situation protects us from what renowned positive psychology coach and author Caroline Adams Miller calls “stupid grit.” Her research on grit has found that individuals can sometimes pursue a path that is not bringing out the best in them, often for reasons that may lie below conscious awareness such as a desire to prove oneself.

In such situations, it’s the candid opinion of others that can be enormously helpful.


Here are 4 rules to remember so you can positively gain from criticism and use it to grow towards your highest potential

Rule 1: Know The Source

People criticize for a myriad of reasons. Trying to take in everyone’s two cents worth would be as fruitless as the father’s efforts to please everyone in the fable of the man, the boy and the donkey. 

It’s important to sift through criticisms and decide which ones are worth paying attention to. One easy way of doing so is to ask yourself a few questions. Does this person know me well? Is this person qualified to judge? And, especially in the workplace, do I need to get along with this person—perhaps your boss? If you answered yes to any one of these questions, the criticism is likely worth listening to – and it is constructive, so you can grow from it.


Rule 2: Balance Your Perspective—Don’t Shame Yourself

Once you’ve decided to pay attention to the criticism, it’s important to hold it in the larger perspective of the full situation. Instead of getting caught up in what went wrong—and even beating yourself up for it—balance your perspective by also considering what went right. 

What were the inner and outer resources that led to the positive? 

Can you harness them again or further? 

This balanced approach will buffer you with your strengths, and fuel you with hope to bring about change in the areas you need to improve, rather than allow the criticism to occupy your mind and bring you down.

Rule 3: Decide To Win Or Learn

This can be hard, especially for those of us who depend on other people’s feedback to feel good about ourselves. And for women, this is not that uncommon—even Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg admits to seeking a little too much approval. 

It helps to remember that no one is expected to be great at everything. But each of us can learn and grow in areas that are important to us. 

See if you can use the criticism to develop what Professor Carol Dweck at Stanford University calls a Growth Mindset—the ability to focus on the learning instead of the outcome, and to use it to gain from the experience rather than get stuck because of it.


Rule 4: Don’t Take It Personally

Now, this is easier said than done! And especially for women because of our stronger emotional circuitry in the brain. But if you find yourself getting overly sensitive about the feedback you’ve received, and ruminating endlessly about it, create emotional distance by picking up a pen and writing down the key takeaways as factual bullet points. This helps in keeping the baby, while throwing out the bathwater. 

If you find that the criticism is clearly not about you at all, but about the fears, concerns or frustrations of the person delivering it, then work at tuning out such advice (and such people) by building mental boundaries.

Because here’s the good news!

The better you become at managing criticism, the stronger you will be at managing the critical voice in your own head. Because we all have it. And those of us who succeed in life are those who have learned to heed it when needed, and let it wash off them like Teflon when not. 

What exactly is criticism?

Criticism is the practice of judging the merits and faults of something. It can be used to evaluate everything from art to people to businesses. In order to be effective, criticism must be based on a set of standards or principles. It should also be objective and constructive – but this is not always the case. 

What is constructive criticism?  

Constructive criticism is a feedback that is specific, objective, and actionable. It is meant to help the person receiving it to improve their performance. It should be given in a way that is respectful and not demeaning. As opposed to just criticism, it is meant to be helpful and make you grow. It is not designed to make you feel bad. 


How to Deal with Criticism Positively 

Here are a few tips for taking on criticism in a positive manner: 

  • Try to see the criticism as constructive feedback. This can be difficult, but it can help you to view the situation in a more positive light. 
  • Respond to the criticism calmly and thoughtfully. This will help to diffuse any negative feelings and allow you to address the criticism more effectively. 
  • Ask questions to clarify the criticism. This will help you to understand the criticism better and figure out how to address it. 
  • Use the criticism as an opportunity to learn and grow. No one is perfect, and we can all learn from our mistakes. Use the criticism as a chance to improve yourself and your work.


How to Deal with Criticism when it is not Constructive at all

When you’re facing criticism, it’s important to remember that not all feedback is created equal. Some criticism is constructive and can help you improve, but other criticism is simply destructive and unhelpful. If you’re dealing with the latter kind of criticism, the best thing you can do is to simply ignore it. 

Don’t let yourself be bogged down by negativity; instead, focus on the constructive feedback you’ve received and use it to improve your work. This negative and non-constructive criticism say more about the person giving it – they might be insecure in themselves. Don’t give them this power to make you feel bad – no one is that powerful.


What is Destructive Criticism?

Destructive criticism is a way of thinking and behaving that focuses on the negative aspects of a situation, rather than the positive ones. It is a form of thinking that is very pessimistic and can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. 

This type of thinking can also be harmful to relationships, as it can create conflict and resentment. If you find yourself engaging in destructive criticism, it is important to try to find ways to change your thinking and focus on the positive aspects of your life. Let’s think about how!

This article first appeared on Forbes

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Homaira Kabir

Homaira Kabir

Written by mentor, author and founder of the Goodbye Perfect Project, Homaira Kabir. Homaira Kabir holds Master’s degrees in Coaching Psychology and in Positive Psychology – the science of human flourishing and wellbeing – from the University of East London. She has just published her latest book ‘Goodbye Perfect: How To Stop Pleasing, Proving and Pushing For Others… and Live For Yourself

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