Anytime you try to make your mark, you’ll attract erasers.
Most people have trouble handling criticism. And yet, reacting and responding to criticism is one of the most important skill sets you can possibly have. It can make the difference between getting fired or promoted. And research indicates it is the number one factor that keeps a couple together or pushes them apart.
So how should you respond to criticism? Here are my top ten techniques … in no particular order. Use as many as are applicable in your situation.
10. If you’re trying to change something and get criticized, take it as a sign of recognition.
In other words, you’re getting noticed. You’re making a difference. After all, if you only did things that made no difference whatsoever or never riled anyone’s feathers, you’re probably not doing anything of significance.
9. Remind yourself that even good people … who are right … get criticized.
President Abraham Lincoln was viciously attacked by the Eastern press. His response? “If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end.”
8. Find the kernel of truth in the criticism.
Most criticism has a little bit of truth in it, even if it is camouflaged by a lot of bluster and blarney. Look for it and learn from it. An old Arab proverb states, “If one person calls you a donkey, forget it. But if five people call you a donkey, buy a saddle.”
7. Look beyond the criticism and see the critic.
If it’s someone you respect, listen to what he has to say. If it’s someone who’s constantly critical, don’t place too much value on what he has to say. He may simply be in the habit of dumping his frustrations on you or any other easy target.
(To master the skills of working with difficult people, I recommend my audio recording of “Difficult People: How To Spot Them and Stop Them.”)
6. Determine the critic’s motivation.
Is he trying to help you or hurt you? If your critic’s attitude is kind, his comments are probably meant to be constructive, even though you may not want to hear what he has to say.
5. Maintain the high ground.
Author and educator Rubel Shelly wrote, “If criticism is mistaken or mean-spirited, rise above it. Maintain the high ground when you’re under fire. No victory is worth winning at the expense of picking up the mud that has been slung at you and throwing it back.”
When a crow attacks a hawk, the hawk doesn’t counterattack. Instead it soars higher and higher in ever widening circles until the pesty crow leaves it alone. What a great strategy. Circle above the critics rather than stooping to their level. One Proverb states: “It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.”
4. Keep your sense of humor.
One day, when the famous 19th century preacher Henry Ward Beecher placed his Bible on the pulpit and was about to deliver his sermon, he noticed a blank sheet of paper with the word “fool” written on it. Beecher’s keen sense of humor seized the moment. He lifted the paper for all to see, then his booming voice filled the church as he announced, “Generally I receive letters from people who write and forget to sign their name. This letter is different. The person has signed his name but forgotten to write the letter.”
3. Concentrate on your mission and change your mistakes.
When you make a mistake in the pursuit of your mission or in the process of doing some task, and when you get criticized for your mistake, concentrate on your mission and change your mistakes. Most of us do the opposite. When we get criticized we change our mission and concentrate on our mistakes. Wrong, wrong, wrong! If you run in another direction every time you get criticized, you’ll never accomplish much. Instead of dwelling on your mistakes, count on making some, growing wiser, and moving on to finish the job.
2. Be open to learning more about yourself.
Dr. James G. Kerr, a management psychologist, says that a major obstacle to gaining information about ourselves comes from our natural reluctance to discover anything about ourselves that isn’t flattering. When we erect defenses against our own inadequacies and try to hide our faults from ourselves and others, we close the door to a vital source of self-knowledge and, therefore, deny ourselves the chance to grow and get better.
1. Pump up your courage and keep on keeping on.
You’re going to get criticized when you have a good idea or when you’re working on a good cause. Unfortunately, the losers in life shut down when they get criticized, and as a result, live a life filled with regrets and what could have been. By contrast, the winners’ need for progress keeps them going. They know they can live more easily with the memory of having tried and failed than not having tried at all. So pump up your courage when you’re criticized rather than be deflated by it.