Tips for taking criticism without falling apart.

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WriterMisfit (circa 2000) ROCKED the criticism.

 

As a healthy living community we rarely chat about the skill of taking CRITICISM without falling apart.

We’ve focused on the importance of accepting a compliment gracefully.

I’ve yammered before–and believe it as important as ever–how deflecting or diminishing a nicety denigrates the giver (never our intent).

We infrequently discuss how much better (take my word for it) and easier (yes! yes!) life is when you DON’T amble through it internalizing criticism as life-ending critique.

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You didnt like my book? No worries!

For me acquiring the skill has been a lifelong process.

Yet, now that I possess it (for the most part. Im human), I can see how it’s equally as pivotal for life success & life-happiness as as being able to take a compliment.

The ability to hear, accept, and not grow defensive as a result of constructive criticism has helped me grow (as a writer. as a sister, mother, wife, friend.) and deepened bonds of trust in my relationships.

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You think my tattoos an unsightly mistake? That’s ok!

The ability to assimilate criticism well is not something we’re born with— it’s a learned skill.

I’d never considered this until it came time to teach an uber-sensitive seven year old about graciously accepting thoughts/ideas she may *not* wish to hear.

Only in attempting to explain the concept to her did I realize it’s like a muscle. 

Taking criticism with aplomb is a trait we need to build & keep strengthened in order to maintain (OOOH fitness tie-in!).

Before I share my tips it bears clarifying I’m operating on the assumption our criticism-profferer is someone whose opinion we value/are compelled to value.  A loved-one, family member, friend, boss etc.

4 Tips For Taking Criticism Without Breaking a Sweat:

1. Dont be a seven year old. This is the most basic of tips and yet the most commonly done. Dont lash back at the criticizer. As we’ve talked about with compliments sit with the words for a moment.  Do not reflexively reciprocate with criticism of your own.

2. Listen. Internalize. Do a body-check. Ask yourself where you feel the *stress* of the critical words? Neck? Pit-of-stomach? Shoulders? Work the mind/muscle connection & focus on relaxing those areas both during & after the criticism-experience.  Physical relaxation serves to lessen the mental-stress of the critique.

3.If this weren’t ME…” Step back & ask yourself what youd think if the words were *not* directed toward you. I frequently do this with criticism of my writing.  I pause, read critiques through lens of Reader NOT Writer & gauge my reaction. Often if not always my response becomes one of Oh yes! That does improve upon my message.

4. Remind yourself imperfections do *not* make you a failure. Life *is* our healthy living mantra of progress not perfection. No one is perfect & none arrive here with the ability to receive criticism without breaking a sweat stride. Each time I offer Tornado constructive criticism she & I also chat about how my parents “helped” me in this fashion.  We discuss how striving to smooth some of our rough edges or imperfections does NOT make us failures.

 

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learning to take criticism is a process…

 

I cannot emphasize enough how the life-skill of taking constructive criticism & integrating without ‘anger’ has helped me grow as a person.

And, if said growth/accompanying pain-at-times isnt enough for you freelance writer types, editors adore working with me because they know I welcome rewrite-suggestions without doing number one above.

Never a bad thing.

And you?

  • When you’re on the receiving end of constructive criticism how do YOU respond?

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Comments

  1. says

    I usually respond like a seven year-old. I’m very sensitive so I usually fall apart for a moment or a couple days, depending on what was said or done. These are excellent tips!! I definitely need to just let it sit for a moment before responding. I hope I don’t have to practice this anytime soon but, if I do, I feel better equipped! Thank you.

    • says

      The 7-year-old reaction is about right for me too. I just have to wait about 10 minutes before I respond or I know it will be a knee-jerk negative response. Love suggestion #3, taking an objective look at things is hard to do sometimes, but most of the time very beneficial.

  2. says

    It depends on who is giving the criticism. Close friends? I’ll absorb it and consider it. Otherwise, I pretty much ignore it. Before offering criticism, a person REALLY needs to know what it’s like to walk a mile in my moccasins before adding their two cents.

    • says

      I love this train of thought. I love constructive criticism because it forces me to analyze myself. Some people just criticize because they are unhappy with themselves. I ignore them. If you can help me improve by systematically explaining how I can do better, bring it.

  3. says

    great post! i’m constantly telling my students that mistakes are OK and that we learn from them. naturally, i make several mistakes while i’m teaching and the kids love [respectfully] correcting me… it shows that i’m human… that nobody is perfect.. and that mistakes are ok!

  4. says

    i think the last one is very important to remember. We all have imperfections, and recognizing them as a tool to change can beat failure, yes?

    i try to step back and evaluate the criticism as well. Body check, yes.

  5. says

    I don’t get much feedback at work anymore, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. I guess most of my constructive criticism comes from my husband. I don’t always take it well, but once I mull it over (stew over it?) I usually can see his point.

  6. Runner Girl says

    I tend to get defensive when people give me running tips because I am already trying my hardest.

  7. says

    Love this! As is my nature, I am often an internalizer. So I’ll almost always be gracious outwardly, but there may a different story going on inside. However, the many gifts of aging have helped me be better about this as well. : )

  8. Irene says

    Intriguing point about how we focus a great deal on taking kind words but not enough on the criticism, Mizzy.

    I think I should help the twins with this early because I don’t do it real well at 33.

  9. says

    LOVE this post! I agree that we often talk about accepting compliments or forgetting (and therefore negating) criticisms i.e. the “haters gonna hate” attitude. But we too need to reflect on the words and comments that can help build us to be better.

  10. says

    Sometimes it’s so hard not to let out your inner 7 year old. This is a great topic and I think most of it comes for getting comfortable with yourself. It does help you grow even if at first it stings a little.

    • LIla says

      I love when you talk about being Unapologetically Yourself, Miz, because that is what I think helps us to not be a 7 year old.
      Being comfortable in our own skin.

  11. says

    I agree it’s such an important life-skill and definitely working on it. Mostly, the sitting with the words for a bit and digesting them before responding.
    Also, I think that constructive criticism isn’t given enough, even when asked. Everyone seems so afraid to hurt everyone else’s feelings. Just me?

  12. says

    This is great!!

    I’ve gotten much better at accepting criticism as I’ve become older. Not so good when younger. It definitely hurt and probably unnecessary hurt at that.

    I’ve also become much stronger with dealing with unnecessary and incorrect criticism, hopefully having the wisdom to distinguish the difference.

    After-all, the tongue is a weapon and a friend, lol!

  13. says

    I LOVE THIS Carla! I was so sensitive as a kid – so insecure & teased for so many reasons. Criticism became a bad thing to me – I was a failure.. It was not to late in life – mid 30s & beyond that I was able to get hold of not feeling so horrible & bad with CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. I feel there is a difference betw criticism & constructive criticism. Some people just like to be mean as you know from trolls & constructive, once we learn to accept & learn can really help us… A FANTASTIC POST!

    I will say that at times, I do have to step myself back & understand it – I still have that insecure kid & adult in me that I have to work to overcome.

  14. says

    I’m digging this post b/c it is such a valuable skill to handle criticism. And a tough one. I’m getting ready to do a wrap up with a client soon and I expect there to be some constructive criticism–going to keep these tips in mind!

  15. says

    Outwardly I am very grown-up when confronted with constructive criticism, but inwardly I find it EXTREMELY unpleasant. I want to curl up in a ball and weep, or lash out at the obviousl unfairness of anyone finding fault with me ever, for any reason.

    In fact, I probably limit myself and my opportunities for growth by cleverly engineering my life to face as little criticism as possible.

    Logically I that striving, failing, and facing negative feedback is all good for me, and that I’d be better off risking the illusion of safe perfection for the real-life rough and tumble of challenge and growth.

    But, um, I kinda like it all safe and warm and comfy in my fantasy world! Great post, must think more on this… :)

  16. says

    As long as the criticism is constructive I welcome it, embrace it, long for it…..

    My past issues with a few editors were in the not hearing my demographic, my intended audience, and changing things that took the context away….

    In that, I was grateful for their input, but still had to follow my intuition and heart.

  17. says

    It depends on the criticisms. If it is something I am trying to deny to myself then I take it to heart but if it is something I can accept than I am open.

  18. says

    It’s definitely a work in progress :-)

    Here are some of the ways I deal:

    I remind myself that all feedback, including criticism, is never about me.

    I consider the source.

    I try not to act on it immediately. (As Tim has taught me…let it set a spell). And when and if I do act on it, I ask myself, what would love do? Sometimes nothing.

    Somebody not getting or not loving something I do doesn’t mean there’s something wrong.

    Realize that some people criticize because they love me and my work.

    Realize that some people criticize because they like to complain.

    Try to know the difference between the two.

  19. says

    “If it weren’t me” makes it a whole lot easier – so tough to not immediately get defensive (depending on the personality type) but criticism makes us GROW

  20. says

    I think #4 is the definite kicker here – so easy to think that we have failed when really it is just a matter of learning to improve!

  21. MIZ says

    I wonder if I would get defensive if, say, an editor criticized my MEMOIR? (I dont think so)
    For me it’s just I AM NOT MY WORDS.
    If the meaning gets lost in the changes I may clarify–but typically they edits help or if nothing else HELP me get published :-)

    I just view it completely as they are words. Yes I created. Yes I finessed. Yes of course I love or Id not submit–but the criticism is not *of me.*

  22. says

    I’ve found this one of the most challenging things to teach as a parent. Walking the fine line between trying to protect their self-confidence whilst giving them the feedback they need to grow as people.

    And each of my three children reacts differently to criticism; so it’s not a once-size-fits all lesson!
    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

  23. says

    I truly believe that accepting constructive criticism is one of the most difficult things to learn/do. It is only natural that our first response is defensive. The key really is learning how to deal with that response and react appropriately.

    I try to follow most of the advice you give. I hold my tongue at first, because most responses made in haste will not be appropriate :-). I will thank the person for their opinion (even if at the moment I don’t agree). Then I will try to reflect honestly and see if they are correct. If they are, I will try to make the right changes. Then the next time I see that person I will thank them more enthusiastically and give them some credit for calling something to my attention that I needed to know.

    At least that is how I plan for things to happen :-)

  24. says

    I remember when my family mocked and criticized me for wanting to start my blog. They thought the name was stupid, too. So glad I didn’t listen to that malarky.

    Criticism is usually one tough cookie to swallow. And I really love swallowing cookies, so this is all very ironic. O_O

  25. says

    I usually just tell people to F-off. ;)

    Seriously though, if it’s someone who matters I have learned to listen and to swallow my pride. This definitely came with age… my younger old self always went the F route.

  26. Janis says

    Depends on who it’s coming from, and whether it was requested. Generally criticism from strangers that I didn’t ask for is worth about what you think it is, so I tend to ignore or dislike it. People whose opinion I value tend to be people whose criticism I value as well, often because I’ve asked them for their opinion to start with.

    But if I don’t know you from Adam, and I didn’t ask, then there’s a good chance that I don’t care what you think.

  27. says

    getting good and bad feedback is always welcomed for us. We find it can be hard to really read a person’s comment or tweet or how ever they are communicating because they could actually be nice or they could be rude. Just hard to read the mood of the person, so we just try to take everything with an open mind. We now we make a lot of grammar mistakes on our blog and we love when people help bring these up :) as it makes us better.

  28. says

    I actually like criticism as it helps me grow. In the short term I am sometimes annoyed, but in the long term I use it to become a better person… unless the criticism is unjustified, of course. :-)

    It’s all in the way of saying things. Diplomacy first!

  29. says

    Learning how to take criticism is such an important lesson in ones life. The earlier a child (and sometimes adults) can understand the difference between constructive criticism and a personal attack, the better! Criticism is important for everyone’s growth. At the same time, it is important to know how to give criticism.

  30. says

    Great post! I used to fall apart over criticism, but now I really appreciate constructive criticism and respect others opinion – even when different from my own.

  31. says

    These are great tips. Especially the one about seeing things through the other person’s eyes. I admit taking criticism is not something I’m good at. This tips will help.

  32. says

    Good stuff, Carla. I haven’t always handled criticism well, but if I just remember to ask myself two questions, it goes much more easily: 1) (borrowed from Wayne Dyer) Is it true? and 2) What is the critic’s intention: to hurt me or to help me?

    With writing, hearing criticism stings sometimes, but I finally decided it probably *should* sting a little, considering it’s from my heart. So I feel the sting and then go to my two questions. I’ve survived so far. :)

  33. says

    Great tips, Miz.

    I went to a college where we had our writing torn apart pretty much a zillion times both by instructors and classmates. I love when people are able to edit my work in a way that makes it flow better or allows removal of unneeded fluff. I also really appreciate when someone tells me I have a typo (especially when it’s on my blog rather than on say, an email campaign that I can’t retract.) And that said, sometimes I choose not to take the suggestions. My writing, my choice!

    When my words are twisted in interviews or something is printed that is out of context that’s another story…

  34. says

    I really thought this was interesting. I’ve always had a bit of a thin skin and try not to, but have never had actual ways to work on it. Thank you for the tips. I’ve bookmarked and will refer to and think about when I’m feeling criticized.

    And I love the tattoos. :)

  35. says

    I struggle with this so much! Pretty much every day several times a day. I am getting better are remembering I can’t control others opinions, but I can control how they make me feel, but there is always that moment of UGH!

  36. says

    I’m not always good at taking criticism….I don’t lash back, I just internalize WAY too much. It’s a skill I need to work on. Thanks for the tips. BTW….I LIKE the tattoos on the leg!! :)

  37. says

    For me it really depends on who is giving the criticism, how they’re doing it, and what it pertains to. Each situation is a little different and I react different I think.
    I try to remain calm but it isn’t always easy to not be upset.

  38. says

    I’m so glad you wrote about this!! Learning to take criticism in a meaningful way (i.e. not automatically internalizing it as “right” and not automatically dismissing it as “wrong”) has been one of the best life skills I’ve developed as a grown up. (Ok, STILL developing. WOrk in progress, emphasis on the progress;)) My fave tip of yours is the body check. I hadn’t thought of this and yet I will totally ball up all my muscles when I’m tense or upset so I think this will really help me! Love you:)

  39. says

    The problem with people learning to accept criticism is that many take it as a personal attack when really it is meant for them to take in, reflect, learn and grow.

  40. says

    I’m not sure when I grew up, but somehow over the past few years I have learned how to accept criticism without blinking an eye. I feel stronger by it too because I know no matter what they say to me, they can’t take away the power. I step back, listen, and choose whether or not I will accept the criticism. Then I thank them and move on.

  41. says

    I’m slowly getting better with this and not trying to take it so personally, because I am a emotional person and sometimes let my emotions take over more than they should. But I’m learning to remain strong, take a step back, don’t jump to conclusions, and move forward. I like the “body check” idea. :)

  42. says

    I don’t take criticism well. I get angry at the person doing the critiquing… and then I move to self-pity. “I’ll show them. I’ll quite writing / sport / whatever and then they’ll feel bad!” And then I move to self-doubt. “I’m crap.”

    Not sure what’s next as I struggle with the recovery!

    Deb

  43. says

    I’ve learned so much from people critiquing/criticism that I now value it so much. It still jabs at times, but I would not do nearly as well without it. :D

  44. says

    Constructive criticism told in the right way is beneficial. Unfortunately, most people don’t have that skill!!!! I definitely get defensive if the person doesn’t approach me right! Thanks for the tips. :)

  45. says

    I love your post and have a very similar outlook on how to take constructive criticism. I sometimes respond by getting defensive and pointing out the other person’s wrong. As hard as I try not to do it, the 7-year-old in me comes out and more often than not I realize it after the fact.

    I learned over time the value of being open to constructive criticism and it allows me to view things in light of love. It makes life much more enjoyable when I can see problems as potential ways of improving my relationships with people. With all this in mind I still forget the 4 tips above but it takes practice and patience.

    Thanks for giving me an enthusiastic reminder!

  46. says

    In a work situation I can take it, when it is personal it is harder. It also depends on my day, if I’m having a day full of criticism simple, productive and constructive criticism can feel like all the other kinds. Definitely something to work on.

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