Criticism happens. It is how we respond or react to criticism that determines whether we gain strength to grow or become depressed and angry. Reacting to criticism easily can lead to events that we regret. So, what is criticism?
From the Dictionary:
- The act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.
- Faultfinding. The act of making an unfavourable or severe judgment, comment.
- The analysis or evaluation of a work of art, literature, etc.
In reality, we want people to tell us how good we are; words of praise naturally give us a good feeling. But when people criticize us we can feel miserable. If the only feedback we receive is praise or flattery, how would we ever make progress? Constructive criticism with useful suggestions can show us areas we need to improve. When people criticize you, ask yourself, “Are they criticising me personally, or criticising something I have done?” By doing this we can separate ourselves from the criticism and then choose an appropriate response – walk away or take it on.
Do we respect the person making the criticism? This helps us determine the criticism’s value. Is this person an authority on the subject? If not, then it isn’t worth spending the time of day to even consider the criticism. If the person making the statement is qualified, then it would be useful to ask “What truth is there in what the person has said?” As we evaluate the truthfulness of a criticism, our feelings may be hurt and we want to defend ourselves to justify the situation. Everyone wants to look good.
Criticism usually is based on some truth although it may appear negative. Usually “valuable criticism” isn’t made in a “put down” tone but rather in one of support. If criticism is given in anger or as an ‘off the cuff’ comment, separate any negative emotion from the useful ‘suggestions,’ then we can wonder if it is legitimate. If there is truth in the criticism then we can ask: What Can I Learn from Criticism?
Criticism with no truth behind it is painful. It it can be natural to react with feelings of anger or injured pride. Obviously, it is easier to deal with criticism if it is justified. However, we soon can regret our own participation in additional criticism and defence. Sometimes postponing our response can be a useful stagey as it gives us time to really evaluate the whole context of the criticism. By deciding the true value of the criticism, if we choose, we can follow up on the comments and make appropriate adjustments. Sometimes holding our peace and our tongue shows our integrity and the true person inside of us. People cannot help but admire a person that lives from the inside out and is in control of their emotions.
Remember, Eleanor Roosevelt said “Nobody can make us feel inferior without our permission”. What an amazing concept!