4 steps to dealing with criticism in a healthy and productive way.

Have you ever put yourself out there and give all you have? Then it happens. The criticizers raise their ugly heads.

Is criticism your enemy? No, but it sure feels like enemy number one.

Criticism finds the doer and the creative. The doers stick out their neck and do the work. In the doing — creativity flows. We create from our soul and give from our very being. We also work hard and take ownership of our work. Is it any wonder that when criticism shows up we are sensitive?

The Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “Criticism is something you can avoid easily — by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”

Those who do nothing never face criticism. The door of criticism is wide open to those who take the risk, do the work, and share it with the world.

Dealing with criticism in a productive way can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be.

Before we dive into some practical solutions let’s look at a biblical view to handle criticism.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  (James 1:19, NIV)

Wow!  This verse is great advice. Listen better and talk slower – works for everybody. Slow to speak and slow to listen is a super hack against criticism.

Now, let’s look at some additional tips to overcome criticism.

1. Do not justify yourself.

When we justify ourselves, we close out the dissenting voice and rationalize our perspective. And yes, we are all guilty of finding our perspective as the best advice.

There is such a thing as constructive criticism.

Margaret Heffernan says, “Outsiders — whether you call them Cassandras, devil’s advocates, dissidents, mentors, troublemakers, fools, or coaches — are essential to any leader’s ability to see.”

Constructive criticism is essential to the leader’s ability to see beyond their own perspective.

If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.  (Proverbs 15:31-32, TLT)

We give ourselves a chance to grow when we open our hearts to the opinion of others. A conflicting voice is not always an enemy.

Margaret Heffernan says, “Hire dissent. This is most critical and often the most strongly opposed. “The ability to endure or even welcome debate and conflict requires practice and protection….You need to create a state in which [employees] dare to do something. You want to build organizations where everyone sees provocation as one of their essential roles.” Too many leaders are saying, “Why are they questioning me?” or “That’s none of their business.” Get a thinking partner for that third opinion.”

2. Find the positive

Every criticism has a measure of truth. Truth is not easy to embrace.

Let’s say an employee is negligent in turning in receipts from an expense account. The bookkeeper is aggravated and eventually berates the employee for negligence. The employee is offended but fails to take responsibility for their failure.

There is always a nugget of truth in the critique. Sometimes we must search for the silver lining in the cloud. It is there.

Carey Nieuwhof says, “Even if there’s just a nugget of truth, that nugget can help you grow into a better person and better leader. There is usually truth in what a critic is saying. But it often takes time to see it.

Beware of:

  • Denial
  • Being defensive
  • Retaliation

3. Pray before you respond. 

Never respond to criticism quickly. THat’s worth repeating.  The most common regret in responding to criticism is that we respond when we are upset. We must remember, A heated response never cools things down.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1, NKJV)

James Clear wrote: During an interview with SUCCESS magazine, Andretti was asked for his number one tip for success in the race car driving. He said, “Don’t look at the wall. Your car goes where your eyes go.” When young drivers start to the race, this is one of the most critical lessons they learn. When you’re driving at 200mph, you need to focus on the road in front of you. If you look at the wall, then you’ll end up hitting it. The same could be said for your life, your work, and dealing with critics. Criticism and negativity from other people are like a wall. And if you focus on it, then you’ll run right into it.

The advice from James is clear. Don’t focus on the criticism. Focus on the advice.

Another great idea is to “sleep on it.” A good night of sleep puts a bad day in a better perspective.

4.Embrace change 

Arrogance is an enemy of criticism. Learning a proper response to criticism is a must for a leader who wants to grow and change.

“If you live off people’s compliments, you’ll die from their criticism.”

— Cornelius Lindsey.

Do not allow criticism to knock you down or knock you out.

Criticism will come. Be ready to handle it in a way that equips you for the future.

Thank you for reading.  Please leave me a comment or a story.  I would love to connect with you.

This article first appeared here.

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