How to Handle Criticism

I've never been a big fan of criticism; even when it's accurate or well-intended, it's all too easy to trigger emotional memories of times when painful criticism was leveled at me as a defense by other people who were avoiding dealing with their own issues. I had a critical mother who often used the phrase “If your mother can't tell you, who can?” to justify perfectionist and often just plain hurtful criticism. My early experiences with her started a pattern of being overly defensive and not taking criticism at all well.

Criticism says more about them than it does about us.

Criticism says more about them than it does about us.

So now rather than reacting emotionally to criticism, I try to respond as constructively to it as I can. For example, there was recently some criticism of The Confident Man Project in a thread on the social anxiety support forums, so I'll use this to illustrate how to respond to criticism.

Notice Your Emotional Reaction

We're all emotional creatures deep down. When we get criticised, our first reaction is an emotional one. Acting on this raw emotion may or may not be the most useful thing to do depending on the circumstances. For instance there may be times when unwarranted criticism makes us angry, and our anger motivates us to stand up for ourselves where we otherwise may let someone else's agenda walk all over us.… Continue reading…

By Graham Stoney, ago