How to Deal With Criticism

Criticism is never fun, whether it’s coming from a well-meaning English teacher or from your arch frenemy. If the criticism is meant to be constructive, then you can use it to become a more well-rounded person. And if it’s only meant to harm you, then you can work on shaking it off like a bad habit. Check out a few of our suggestions for dealing with all kinds of criticism.

[Edit]Steps

[Edit]Give the person a chance to talk without interuption.

  1. Ask the person to explain their feedback. Instead of wasting time denying the criticism, give the person a chance to explain. Don’t rush to cut them off or explain yourself—let them talk! If someone is in the middle of telling you something you can do to improve, don’t say, “But actually, I already do that…” unless you feel like the person is really off base. [1]
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    • If your teacher says you need to work harder, don’t give them a lame excuse for why you’ve been slacking off. Instead, note the feedback and try to address it.
    • It takes maturity to stay quiet instead of making excuses for why the person is wrong when you’re getting valid feedback.

[Edit]Remain calm and don’t take it personally.

  1. Tell yourself that criticism is meant to be helpful. It’s not supposed to bring you down so you feel inadequate. For instance, if your boss says you’ve been a little less productive than usual lately, it’s not because they think you’re lazy; it’s because they want you, their employee, to step up your game. If your best friend says that you have a tendency to zone out when she’s talking to you, don’t think that she’s calling you a horrible friend; she just wants you to communicate a little better.[2]
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    • If your teacher has given you rather critical feedback on a paper, it’s not because they think you’re stupid or annoying in class; it’s because they believe you can do better!

[Edit]Thank the person for constructive criticism that’s helpful.

  1. Take a moment to thank someone who gave you friendly, useful feedback. Let them know you appreciate the fact that they told you something that can make you an even better friend, partner, student, or professional. For example, say, “Thank you. I’ll consider your suggestion,” or, “Thanks, I hadn’t thought of doing it that way.”[3]
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    • Thanking people who give you honest criticism is also a sign of maturity and that you’re open to improving yourself.

[Edit]Find the truth in the criticism.

  1. Pay attention to the point of the criticism. Don’t interrupt, argue, or correct the person who’s telling you this. Instead, listen to their criticism so you can break it down and figure out what to do next. This way, you’ll get useful information from the criticism instead of dwelling on the hurtful aspect.[4]
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    • It’s totally fine to tell someone that you can’t have a constructive conversation at the moment. Let them know you recognize their criticism and that you’d be open to feedback a little later.

[Edit]Remind yourself that everyone can better themselves.

  1. Keep your mind open to suggestions and ways to improve. Think of criticism as a form of feedback. After all, nobody’s perfect. Everyone has flaws and that’s what makes up human. By recognizing that you’re not perfect, you open yourself up for improvement and that’s a good thing![5]
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    • Think about all of the people you know. Can you name a single one who is absolutely perfect? Probably not—everyone is human after all.

[Edit]Imagine how the criticism can make you a better person.

  1. Remind yourself that criticism is a tool for self-improvement. Although criticism might feel harsh or too personal at first, think of it as a gift in disguise. You can use that personalized feedback to make a change so you’re stronger as a person.
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    • For instance, if someone tells you that you’ve got natural musical talent and you just need to practice, think about what a great musician you could become instead of getting stuck on the criticism.
    • If your friend told you that you’re obsessed with yourself, that probably hurts. But could there be something helpful behind the message? Your friend might be telling you to be a little more empathetic, to spend more time thinking about others, and to spend less time thinking about yourself. It may be just the nudge you need to make some positive changes.
    • The next time you hear some constructive criticism, embrace it! Think of criticism as a tool for personal growth.

[Edit]Create actionable steps to improve yourself.

  1. Write down the things you want to work on and how you can improve. Okay, so you’ve decided that your English teacher, boss, boyfriend, or best friend is completely right, or at least somewhat right. Now, write down the thing you need to work on along with actionable things you can do to improve.[6]
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    • For instance, if your teacher tells you that you need to do more research for a paper, come up with a study schedule. Include research sources that you’ll check out and mark off of your list as you go. This way, you’ll be really prepared for the next assignment.
    • Some criticism can be hard to work on. For example, if a romantic partner tells you that you’re too needy, you may need to work on giving them some space—hang out with other people, stop texting them constantly, and make time for yourself.

[Edit]Differentiate between useful and harmful criticism.

  1. Constructive criticism can be helpful while destructive criticism is hurtful. Figure out where the feedback is coming from to identify the intentions of the person who’s giving it to you. For instance, if a teacher or parent gives you criticism, it’s probably because they want you to improve and do better. Unfortunately, some people might criticize in order to make you feel bad and it’s important to recognize that.[7]
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    • Try to focus on the message as well as the delivery. If someone’s yelling at you, it’s probably destructive criticism while someone giving constructive criticism will talk to you reasonably.
    • If you think someone’s criticizing you just to be hurtful, then you can think about why the person might have said such a thing. Maybe the person was jealous or just in a bad mood. Whatever the reason, remind yourself that it had little to do with who you are.

[Edit]Tell yourself that criticism only hurts if you let it.

  1. Remember that words are just words. What was that thing your mother told you about “sticks and stones” not being able to break your bones? Sure, you thought it was silly in third grade, but now that you’re older, it’s probably starting to make sense. In the end, destructive criticism can’t physically hurt you. It’s just a series of words connected together, so try not to take it too personally.[8]
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[Edit]Work on being less sensitive.

  1. Challenge yourself to control your emotions and avoid overreacting. If people think you are sensitive or you tear up every time someone gives negative feedback, they will be less likely to tell you the truth. Plus, you don’t want people to feel like they’re walking around on eggshells whenever they talk to you. Work on accepting your flaws and looking for ways to improve.[9]
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    • Trying to be less sensitive? Ask people for feedback instead of running away from it and when you get criticism, listen for the useful information instead of responding emotionally.
    • Remember, focus on the message and its intention to help you instead of dwelling on all of the “mean” or “hurtful” things that were said to you.

[Edit]Maintain your self-confidence.

  1. Embrace the things that you like about yourself. It’s easy to take criticism to heart and start feeling down, but you shouldn’t let it affect your confidence. Love who you are and how you look—don’t let what other people think make you think less of yourself![10]
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    • If you’re unhappy with who you are, ask yourself why. Make a list of a few things you don’t like about yourself and figure out what you can change. You might need to learn to accept things that you can’t change, too.
    • Hang out with people who make you feel good about yourself. If people give you destructive criticism, you may not want to spend much time around them.

[Edit]Video

[Edit]Tips

  • Keep in mind that criticism should be constructive advice. If it’s meant to be harmful, you may need to learn how to deal with insults.
  • It can take some practice to effectively deal with criticism. Keep up the good work and remind yourself that everyone experiences criticism at some point.

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