Everyone is faced with criticism at some point. I could argue that the only way to grow is to somehow face the negative feelings of being criticized. We all at some point do something worth criticizing… we make bad choices, or we are misunderstood… it’s part of life. People who I really admire and look up to are those that are apt at taking criticism and gleaning whatever they can out of it (if anything) to become better people.
Since failure, misunderstandings, and criticism are all a part of life, I’ve taken note of how I want to handle my own experiences with criticism now, and in the future. Here are 3 things that I’ve come up with to jump start your new perspective on receiving unwanted criticism:
1) Don’t Be Rash — Take a step back and really look at where the criticism is coming from. A good checklist I’ve used before and continue to mentally tick off are these gems:
- Who is criticizing you? Is it someone that knows you well? Is it someone who you know doesn’t like you for other reasons? Is this person seen attacking others all the time or getting into unnecessary arguments?
- What are their beliefs? Sometimes when you make a choice or move (or even dare to say something) that goes against a person’s core beliefs, even if they usually agree with you and enjoy your company in person, it can make them feel very threatened and defensive… to the point where they feel the need to step in and “set you straight.” This is one of the reasons polite society generally avoids talking about the three inflammatory subjects: politics, religion, and sex.
- Is the criticism mostly destructive? This is probably pretty easy to distinguish, are they being helpful in pointing out particular things they disagree with, or is it more judgmental and condemning of your character. A person who knows how to criticize well usually stays away from character judgments about the person they are trying to “help” with their criticism. The only time where this is an exception is when you are dealing with self-righteousness (think Jesus calling into question the character of the religious hypocrites… He was not only harsh and name-calling, He dealt out character judgments right and left, because the ugly sin of self-righteousness needs it).
- Is their any ounce of Truth in their criticism? It is absolutely critical to look discerningly at a person’s criticism of you… even if they are being destructive and hurtful, is there any Truth in their words? It takes an especially strong and mature person to admit that someone’s criticism has an aspect of Truth to it, and then seek out what they need to in order to make changes in themselves. When you make this a habit, even if your criticizer was trying to harm you, you still come out ahead in the end! You’ve gained insight into something that although painful, has made you a better person (for realizing and then doing something about it).
2) Don’t Lash Out — I’ve learned this from experience, it never ever does anyone good to lash out after you are personally criticized. A thoughtful response, sure. No response, probably even better. But lashing out, just don’t. Some things to remember when you are faced with inflammatory criticism:
- Don’t show real rage or anger
- The other person does not deserve to know they “got” to you
- Preserve your dignity. Your dignity is more important than trying to get your point across to someone who isn’t listening anyway
3) Don’t Be Blinded — Try to see things from a different perspective. Put yourself into the belief system, life, and proverbial shoes of the other person. Are you being unnecessarily or unknowingly offensive? It’s good to have strong opinions about things, but sometimes not everything needs to be said.
There are times in the past when I wish I had just kept silent. I’ve done horrible things ** oh confessions** … I’ve stepped on too many toes to count, with careless words and angry passions. I can write this truthfully because I have made mistakes with every one of these points. Thank God I’ve learned and have made some drastic changes. I hope it gives you Readers some comfort and love.