How to react to criticism – for a better outcome every time
None of us enjoy being criticised. It’s human nature to enjoy being right and most of us feel a sense of hurt when we’re wrong.
However, we all need criticism. Although we’re generally drawn to like-minded people, those who disagree with us truly help us to grow.
The ones who call us out, point out our weaknesses and flaws, yes, it’s the ones who challenge us who enable us to grow.
Learning how to react to criticism will make us a better person, a smarter person.
How EQ (Emotional Intelligence) helps
Emotional intelligence involves the ability to recognise and understand our emotions, and to use that information to guide our future decision making.
There are times when we shouldn’t listen to criticism, for example, when it’s based on falsehood or given in a way that’s meant to destroy our sense of self-esteem/self worth, but in reality, that’s not usually the case, learning how to react to criticism really should be on the national curriculum.
When we’re on the receiving end of criticism, our goal should be to learn from the feedback, and not let our emotions or our past, close our minds. The key is to be proactive, not reactive.
What reactions do emotionally intelligent people try to avoid when they’re criticised?
1. They don’t minimise the problem.
When receiving criticism, our first instinct might be to think: Is it really that big of a deal?
Maybe it is, or maybe it isn’t. For the person who brought it to your attention, it was. You can be sure it will be for others, too.
Remember: When you’re striving to improve, ‘the small stuff matters‘.
2. They don’t rationalise.
As a young teen, when Dad came home and asked why I hadn’t taken the garbage out, I would respond:
“Well, I kind of took the garbage out. see, it’s right next to the door. I was planning on dumping it in a few minutes.”
It didn’t help then, and it doesn’t help now, making half excuses or, I meant to do it, or I was going to do it later, before I got found out doesn’t help, so get organised!
3. They don’t make excuses.
If someone has the courage to tell you your presentation stunk, don’t waste time explaining that you needed more time to prepare or you didn’t know who your audience would be, instead, ask why it stunk. Then listen carefully.
4. They don’t try to justify themselves.
OK, this one comes with a caveat. Obviously, you shouldn’t automatically take the fall for something you didn’t do, and there are circumstances when you’ll need to defend yourself.
But in general, keeping a learning mindset when it comes to criticism will bring the most benefits. When you see yourself as right all of the time, you’re missing something.
5. They don’t sidestep the issue.
Politicians and spin doctors are experts at this. But refusing to tackle issues head-on is not only bad form, it’s also self-defeating and we all dis-like not getting a straight answer, or people being man enough to accept their mistakes.
The first step in improving any weakness isn’t to recognise that it’s there.
6. They don’t shift the blame.
For some people, it’s always the other guy’s fault. But guess what? Those individuals usually end up pretty lonely.
We can’t control others, but we can work on ourselves. When we accept criticism, apply it, and move forward, not only do we benefit, but others (our children) benefit from our example.
Emotionally Intelligent people DO…
Accept all criticism with a good heart – until they have had time to cool down, reflect and really examine whether the person had a point!
Every bit of criticism is an opportunity to grow – here’s why.
You accept it at face value, then calm down, reflect and examine whether the person had a point – you learn from it and put into practice what you need to do better to stop repeating the problematic behaviour.
Remind your self, you are learning how to react to criticism in a way that will move you and your relationships forward.
After calming down, reflecting and examining your behaviour, YOU decide whether they had a point or whether you should go back to them to discuss why it was an unfair criticism.
The result either way is you learn from the experience – win/win.
Paul Parkin – online therapist & coach for life