How To Handle Criticism Like A Pro

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
By Laura Schwecherl

It’s hard to feel warm and fuzzy inside when our latest Instagram post receives a measly two likes — let alone when our boss gives us negative feedback on a project. But to succeed in life, both personally and professionally, it’s important to take criticism in stride. Listening to people’s opinions can improve our relationships, academic performance, and job satisfaction. Find out how to handle what others have to say without shedding a tear.

Criticism is a term for judgment or evaluation, good or bad. And it can pop up everywhere: from college papers, to personal blogs, to family get-togethers, and chats with friends. (Your new haircut does not suit your face shape. But have a great date!) There are lots of reasons why people offer criticism, like feeling jealous or insecure in a romantic relationship (You always forget to call!). At work, organization leaders may also use criticism to help employees improve their work—and make them tremble before approaching the boss’s office. And yet, not all criticism is bad news bears.
Constructive criticism (offering thoughtful feedback) can help us gain valuable insight into our actions and increase trust between people. Among college students, constructive criticism about academic work (Here’s how this paragraph could be better) may boost that GPA more than deconstructive criticism (This paper is awful). On the other hand, deconstructive criticism —the “you suck!” kind, involves accusing people, and pointing out their faults without suggestions for improvement. No surprise, deconstructive criticism can hurt people’s self-esteem, and make them feel guilty for not performing up to par. But whether criticism is useful or just plain humiliating, there are ways to deal with it and move on.

Being sensitive to criticism can be a sticky situation. Sometimes people may even stop working toward a goal out of fear of being critiqued. But don’t give in to those worries about potential critiques. Here are some helpful tips to handle any kind of criticism that heads our way.

Related: How To Be Optimistic About Almost Everything

Listen Up
Figure out whether the criticism is constructive or simply rude. You may feel hurt when your partner says you’re controlling, but having him point out this flaw may help you change, and could ultimately save the relationship. If criticism might be helpful, lend all ears and try to learn from it instead of getting defensive.
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Be respectful, no matter what, and thank someone if the feedback is useful . If the critique is uncalled for (that story you wrote was crap!), kill 'em with kindness. A simple smile makes you the bigger person.

Don’t Take It Personally
Try to remove yourself from the situation and focus on what’s being critiqued. That C+ midterm doesn’t reflect your A+ personality! Instead, it’s a reminder to study a little harder next time, skip all that partying the night before, or realize that calculus simply isn’t your biggest strength.
Manage Stress
When we’re constantly on edge, we can feel out of control and unable to respond to criticism with a clear head. So, take a deeeep breath to keep those stress levels in check.

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Remember that the criticism represents just one person’s point of view. Know what your strengths are, and don’t let other people’s opinions keep you from working hard toward a goal. If somebody says you’re too short to be a power forward, start working on that jump shot!

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