How to Deal with Criticism from Others

Let’s admit it, most of us don’t like to receive criticism and we view criticism as a negative experience. But we cannot control what others say to us, the only thing we can control is how we respond to it, learn from it, and move on. In every criticism there is a lesson to be learnt. Some of the criticism we receive might be helpful to us as it can be used in a positive way to help us improve, while other criticisms may be unsolicited and harmful. To be able to deal with criticism in a constructive and mindful way is an essential life skill. It is important to learn the difference between receiving helpful and un-helpful criticism, as this will consequently allow you to understand how to handle it. If we respond to criticism without careful consideration, it can easily lead to unnecessary suffering. In this post, we will explore how to deal with criticism from others generally, and then look at some specific scenarios.

Here are 9 things to remember that will help you when dealing with criticism from others:

  1. Always take your time to respond when you are given criticism. This will allow you to think it through clearly and enable you to understand how to deal with the criticism, giving you the time to respond mindfully and avoid acting irrationally.
  2. Imagine that the criticism you are receiving you are giving to a friend. Talk to your friend in a kind and compassionate way, this will help you see the criticism more clearly and from a positive perspective.
  3. Always stay calm, don’t raise your voice to match the other person’s tone.
  4. Keep a mindful perspective throughout. This means looking at the criticism in proportion; not focusing on just the negatives or just the positives, and trying to see the criticism in relation to the bigger picture.
  5. One person’s opinion, at one time, does not necessarily mean what he or she said is true or correct.
  6. If you know the criticism you are receiving is false, ignore it. Try not to waste your time and energy trying to prove someone wrong or allowing the false criticism to question what you already know to be true.
  7. Always be compassionate towards the person criticising you – they may have things going on in their life which you are unaware of, making them stressed or angry and resulting in them taking their frustration out on you.
  8. There are some people who have a way of speaking that is quite direct and blunt. They are not intentionally trying to hurt you, it is just their way of communication.
  9. Always believe in yourself, don’t let other people’s opinions get you down.

We’ll now look at some specific examples of times when you might receive criticism. During these scenarios, remember to include all the points above which we have already discussed.

  • Criticism from people who don’t believe you – There might be times in your life when someone doesn’t believe you, for example they might not believe that you have an illness or maybe they do not believe your situation is as bad as it seems. If, for instance, you are suffering from an illness which is known as an “invisible illness”, you might receive criticism from friends, family, strangers or even doctors, who don’t understand or try to understand your illness. They might say things like, “you’re not ill, it’s all in your head”, or “you just need to try this treatment to get better”. If you know the individual making this remark, try and explain to them mindfully what’s going on and help them understand whatever you are going through. If you are finding close friends are still making hurtful comments even after you have tried talking to them, really consider if this is a friendship you want to keep. You need to be friends with people who are supportive and kind, even if they don’t fully understand what you are going through. On the other hand, when people make hurtful comments and they are not people you can talk to, for example strangers or doctors, the best way to deal with it is to remember that no matter what anyone else says, you are the one who knows yourself best. Never allow anyone to tell you how you’re feeling.
  • Criticism from friends or family – Receiving criticism from the people whom you love the most is always hard, so it’s important to understand how to talk to them if the criticism continues to arise and upset you. As aforementioned, always speak mindfully and with kindness. To help you understand the difference, imagine if your friend said to you in a hurtful and angry tone, “You’ve said some really mean things to me lately and it’s really unfair. It doesn’t matter if you’re stressed, you shouldn’t treat your friends like that.” After hearing this, you may very likely want to react and become angry and defensive. Instead, imagine if your friend said to you calmly and compassionately, “I understand you have been stressed these last few weeks, but you’ve said a few hurtful things to me recently and I think you could have been a bit kinder. I know you didn’t intentionally hurt me, so if you ever want to talk you know I’m always here for you.” After hearing this you’d probably feel quite guilty and apologetic, but also grateful that your friend said it so kindly to you. Always try and keep any blame out of the conversation, and chose a time to speak to them when you are both calm and mindful. 

  • Constructive criticism – The most important thing to remember when receiving constructive criticism, is to keep a mindful perspective throughout. For example, say someone like your teacher or boss is giving you feedback on a piece of work you wrote and they say to you, “I really like your last piece of work; I think it has really good structure and some great points. Just try and keep your points more concise and maybe cut it down a bit”. If you are a critical or negative person, you might take this as, “they don’t like my work at all, they think it’s rubbish. I will have to start all over again”. However, if we look at these thoughts rationally we can recognise that this isn’t true. Try using the “imagine giving the criticism to your friend” technique we discussed earlier, and remember constructive criticism is there to help you improve and become better.
  • Destructive criticism – If you receive criticism from someone when it genuinely isn’t helpful, such as “this piece of work is rubbish, you need to start again, then mindfully recognise that this was an unkind way for them to speak to you and that it could have been delivered in a more constructive manner. To help you, it might be worth asking for another teacher’s, colleague’s or friend’s opinion, as this will enable you to have a more balanced picture.

I hope you find these techniques useful and you can start using them the next time you receive criticism from others. Like anything, the more you practise dealing with criticism constructively and mindfully, the easier it will become and the more peaceful and happier your life will be. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below, or click on the “contact me” menu button to message me privately.

If you are suffering criticism from yourself, check out my other posts “Why You Need to Practise Being Kind to Yourself”, by clicking here, and “12 Ways to Practise Being Kind to Yourself”, by clicking here.

Metta, E x

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