4 Rules For Dealing With Criticism and Using It To Your Advantage

4 Rules For Dealing With Criticism and Using It To Your Advantage

Cover of Goodbye, Perfect by Homaira Kabir

Goodbye, Perfect – The Book

A science-backed and soulful journey to embrace your authentic expression and build the confidence to live an empowered and purpose-driven life.

Criticism can be tough to handle, but it’s an essential part of personal and professional growth. Here are 4 rules you can try to deal with criticism gracefully.

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.  We often don’t know how to deal with criticism. We find it shameful.

Our ability to maintain perspective and benefit from criticism is not a skill that comes naturally to us. This is because we are biologically programmed to avoid negativity. Therefore, it is important to work on this skill to improve ourselves.

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 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 learn how to deal with 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.

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 focusing solely on what went wrong, try to 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. This new perspective will bring 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 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.

If you become too sensitive about the feedback you receive, ruminate, and struggle with how to deal with criticism, create emotional distance. Write down the key takeaways as factual bullet points.

This helps in keeping the baby, while throwing out the bathwater.

And 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.


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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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