How to Handle the Sting of Criticism with Grace: 7 Helpful Tips


I don’t think there’s anyone out there who enjoys criticism. It is in our nature to want to be right and be drawn to like-minded people. But, the truth is that, more often than not, those who disagree with us are the ones who help us grow.

If you don’t care about building a relationship with anyone, then it doesn’t really matter if you handle criticism poorly. But if you want your partner, boss, colleagues, friends, or family to feel like you care about their feelings, then being able to truly hear them when you feel criticized is important.

So, ask yourself this: are you truly hearing what they are saying when they are criticizing you or is your first reaction is to get defensive? If that’s the case, then they may not feel like you heard or understood them.

Do any of these sound familiar?

“You’re too sensitive!”

“Can’t you take a joke?”

“You are always so critical.”

“Why are you in such a bad mood?”

“I’ve been really busy. I’m doing my best.”

If you say one of these, will they feel like you really got their point? No. You are blaming them or making an excuse, not really addressing their issue with you.

Whether you go on the counterattack, shut down communication, or just defend your behavior, there are more effective ways to handle feeling criticized.

Here are 7 tips:

Handling Criticism Tip #1: Evaluate Your Critic

Rather than simply reacting to the criticism, it can help a great deal to figure out the intention of your critic and the effectiveness of their communication. For example, if your partner says, “I feel hurt when you get so angry with me,” that is a genuine expression of their feelings. That is different from a direct criticism of you like, “You’re a real jerk.” Experts recommend that people use “I feel” language to sound less critical. It is not particularly constructive or effective feedback to tell anyone they are being a jerk. In all likelihood, it is hard for them to express themselves well. Take their criticism with a grain of salt unless they are giving you specifics. It might just be their problem.

Handling Criticism Tip #2: Be as Objective as Possible

If you find their criticism upsetting to you, do the best you can to think it over before reacting. Rather than get angry or cry, try to put your feelings aside so that you can get clarification. Especially in a work situation, tell yourself you will go home and think about it to buy yourself some time. If your feelings are too overwhelming, then it may be best to tell them you would like to discuss it later instead.

Handling Criticism Tip #3: Be Polite

You have nothing to lose when you thank others for their feedback and apologize for your shortcomings. Even if you decide later that they were completely off base with their remarks, you look like a team player. At least you gave them an acknowledgment that you heard them.

Handling Criticism Tip #4: Accept That We All Make Mistakes

Join the rest of us in the land of imperfection. Making mistakes is simply part of being human. It’s actually how we learn and grow. Be kind to yourself and realize what you can learn from your mistakes.

Handling Criticism Tip #5: Stand up for Yourself

After you have listened to their feedback and had a chance to think it over, you may still have a different opinion. If that’s the case, try to be tactful when you disagree. You may want to wait until the timing is better so you can think over your approach. Waiting may help you appear less defensive.

Handling Criticism Tip #6: Don’t Take It Personally

As I’ve said before, making mistakes is part of life. You need to understand that criticism does not have to be an attack on you. More often than not, criticism is somebody complaining about your behavior, not you as a person. You don’t have to react with shame. Your behavior is not the real you. You can learn to behave in new ways.

Handling Criticism Tip #7: Use the Feedback to Your Advantage

When you are on the receiving end of criticism, your goal should be to learn from the feedback, not let your emotions take over. If there is any grain of truth or helpfulness in the criticism you received, use it to make positive changes in your life.

Bottom Line:

Believe it or not, criticism can be positive in your life. Learning to handle it can help you to improve your relationships, learn from your mistakes, and determine how much of it might be the other person’s problem.

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