posted on: 4/26/2012 7:29:13 PM EST
Accept Criticism With Grace and Appreciation
criticism, grace, appreciation

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How do you deal with criticism? The first reaction for many of us is to defend ourselves, or worse yet to lash back. And yet, while criticism can be taken as hurtful and demoralizing, it can also be viewed in a positive way: it is honesty, and it can spur us to do better. Show your true talents while revealing your toughness by controlling the immediate challenge: resolving your own internal conflict. Be tough and don't whine or howl. Here's how to be in command!

Postpone your first reaction. If your first reaction is to lash back at the person giving the criticism, or to become defensive, take a minute before reacting at all. Move slowly (not acting-out) toward the person, then turn away saying, "Let's talk about this in a minute." Take a deep breath, and give it a little thought. For example, let a critical email sit in your in-box for at least an hour before replying. That is like walking away from someone instead of saying something you’ll regret later. Save your reply as a draft and come back an hour or a day later to polish it before sending. Remember, emails can be forwarded to others by the recipient with a few clicks.

Cool off! You have to absorb and convert some heat to positive energy. That cooling off time allows you to give it a little more thought beyond your initial reaction. It allows logic to step in, past the emotion. This is not a criticism against emotion, but when it’s a negative emotion, sometimes it can cause more harm than good. So let your emotions run their course--while making positive and pro-active inputs as usual--and then respond more specifically when you feel calmer. Don't get into a dog fight of snarls, red-eyes (burning tears) and glares that stem the flow of purposeful work or study...

Turn a negative into a positive. One of the keys to success in anything you do is the ability to find the positive in things that most people see as a negative. Sickness forces you to stop your exercise program? That’s a welcome rest. Tired of your job? That’s a time to rediscover what’s important and to look for a better job. Super typhoon ruined all your possessions? This allows you to realize that your stuff isn’t important, and to be thankful that your loved ones are still alive and safe. You can do the same thing with criticism: find the positive in it. Sure, it may be rude and mean, but in most criticism, you can find a nugget of gold: honest feedback and a suggestion for improvement.

See it as an opportunity to improve — and without that constant improvement, we are just sitting still. Improvement is a good thing. For example, this criticism: “You write about the same things over and over and your blog posts are boring and stale", can be read: “I need to increase the variety of my posts and find new ways of looking at old things.” That’s just one example of course — you can do that with just about any criticism. Sometimes it’s just someone having a bad day, but many times there’s at least a grain of truth in the criticism.

Thank the critic. Even if someone is harsh and rude, thank them. They might have been having a bad day, or maybe they’re just a negative person in general. But even so, your attitude of gratitude will probably catch them off-guard. Thanking a critic can actually win a few of them over. All because of a simple act of saying thank you for the criticism. It’s unexpected, and often appreciated. And even if the critic doesn’t take your “thank you” in a good way, it’s still good to do — for yourself. It’s a way of reminding yourself that the criticism was a good thing for you, a way of keeping yourself humble--not cocky.

Learn from the criticism. After seeing criticism in a positive light, and thanking the critic, don’t just move on and go back to business as usual. Actually try to improve. That’s a difficult concept for some people, because they often think that they’re right no matter what. But no one is always right. You, in fact, may be wrong, and the critic may be right. So see if there’s something you can change to make yourself better. And then make that change. Actually strive to do better as a communicator. You'll end up being glad you made the extra effort.

Be the better person. Too many times we take criticism as a personal attack, as an insult to who we are. But it’s not. Well, perhaps sometimes it is, but we don’t have to take it that way. Take it as a criticism of your actions, not your person. If you do that, you can detach yourself from the criticism emotionally and see what should be done. But the way that many of us handle the criticisms that we see as personal attacks is by attacking back. “I’m not going to let someone talk to me that way.” Especially if this criticism is made in public, such as in the comments of a blog or on a forum. You have to defend yourself, and attack the attacker … right? Wrong. By attacking the attacker, you are stooping to his level. Even if the person was mean or rude, you don’t have to be the same way. You don’t have to commit the same sins. Be the better person.

Stay calm and positive. If you can rise above the petty insults and attacks, and respond in a calm and positive manner to the meat of the criticism, you will be the better person. And guess what? There are two amazing benefits of this:

Others will admire you and think better of you for rising above the attack. Especially if you remain positive and actually take the criticism well.

You will feel better about yourself. By participating in personal attacks, we dirty ourselves. But if we can stay above that level, we feel good about who we are. And that’s the most important benefit of all.

Rise above the criticism. How do you stay above the attacks and be the better person? By removing yourself from the criticism, and looking only at the actions criticized. By seeing the positive in the criticism, and trying to improve. By thanking the critic. And by responding with a positive attitude. A quick example:

Someone criticizes something you have written by saying, “You’re an idiot. I don’t understand what x has to do with y.” A good typical response should be to ignore the first sentence.

Take the interjection as an opportunity to clarify. Thank the critic, overcoming the insult by using the opportunity to explain your point further. By staying positive, you have accepted the criticism with grace and appreciation. Say something like, “Thanks for giving me an opportunity to clarify that. I don’t think I made it as clear as I should have. What x has to do with y is... and... Thanks for the great question!” And in doing so, remained the wiser person, and you will feel great about yourself for overcoming and adapting the insult to a higher purpose.

Avoid seeing business and training as a "contact or blood sport" and see that you are not mainly hanging them high or letting them twist in the breeze: instead you are being the masterful communicator showing the low-achiever how it's done. Be the one who is thoughtful and demonstrating how to communicate to achieve your goal!

There may be some times where an insult isn't as bad as someone calling you a horrible name of some sort, but they say something that could embarrass you.

Think of it as a chance to laugh or make your day better. Smile at it as if it were a joke. Who cares if you turn red. See that moment happening only once in your life. You'll look back on it one day and laugh. So, pretend you're grown up in the future, looking back on that day and laughing at it.

If you can handle it, fake-agree. Fake-agreeing speaks for itself. Just agree, but fake it in a fun manner, such as a snappy, funny (possibly sarcastic) way.

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