How to Deal with Criticism

Written by Christine Kane

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“Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember – the only taste of success some people get is to take a bite out of you.”     – Zig Ziglar

Here’s one thing I’m pretty sure of:

I’m pretty sure you don’t want to learn “How to Deal with Criticism.”

In fact, you’d probably prefer a post called: “How to Avoid Criticism and Ensure that Everybody Loves You Unequivocally til the Day You Die.”

Unfortunately, that guide would also be called: “How to Have a Totally Boring Life.”

Face it.  When you play a bigger game, or step into your power – you’ll most likely make some people uncomfortable.  Unfortunately, in the face of discomfort, most people don’t look within to find the source of it.  They choose, instead, to lash out, criticize, or get cynical.  All of us – myself included – have played this game!

That’s because very few of us are taught Personal Responsibility.   We are taught, instead, to blame other people for our results, our thoughts, and our emotions.  We are taught to react.

The true moment of liberation in anyone’s life is when she takes Personal Responsibility for it. When she starts to ask, “What is it in me that created this, or attracted it?  How can I learn from it or turn it around?”

Let’s assume, however, that 90% of the world doesn’t practice this level of empowerment. That means that, most likely, someone will criticize you at some point in your life.  And I’m not talking about constructive advice.  I mean the harsh stuff.  The stuff that hurts – because that’s exactly what it’s designed to do!

So, how do you handle it?

Well, I wish I could be with you the moment it happens. Cuz I’ve “Been-There-Done-That” and gotten the t-shirt!  Instead, I’ll send you a virtual hug and give you 7 practices that have worked for me.

1 – Make a decision.

Marla came to my women’s retreat because she was “sick of playing small.” I asked her what Playing Big looks like.  A determined look crossed her face, and she said, “…to finally stop caring about what other people think of me.”

If this is you, then it’s time to make a decision. Decide right now that you will no longer live your life contorting your soul in an attempt to prevent criticism or judgment.  Start with that one decision.

2 – SWSWSWSW.

Remember this: Some will. Some won’t. So what? Someone’s waiting.

An example:

After one of my big teleseminars, I received an email from someone who didn’t like it.  She sent a list of things that was wrong with it. (And me!)

I also received an email from a woman who was literally on her way to end her own life – and upon listening to that same teleseminar in her car, turned around and chose to start over again because of what I said.

This is classic SWSWSWSW.  Apply it to your own gifts!

3 – Give yourself space to grieve.

Criticism is designed to hurt. And it often does. If you need some time to cry, then give yourself that gift.  Call a friend who will listen.

Do yourself a favor, however, and set a limit. Give yourself til “Tuesday at 5pm.”  Or set the timer for 55 minutes. Then, choose to move on. Otherwise, it’s easy to let it eat away at you indefinitely.

4 – Coach yourself.

A great technique that heals the effects of criticism is Brooke Castillo’s Self-Coaching.  In her book Self-Coaching 101, she provides fantastic techniques to heal any negative thought pattern. I’ve had great success using her work.  You have to actually DO the work though. Get out your journal and write it all down!

(Exciting Note:  Brooke is going to be a special guest at my Wide Awake Weekend Event in Asheville, NC the first weekend in November. Tickets go on sale THIS THURSDAY!!!)

5 – It’s not about you.

Criticism is never about you. It’s always about the person doing the criticizing.  That might not help when you’re hurting. But it’s nice to be reminded!

6 – Protect yourself.

A friend of mine who is a university professor told me that there are student websites devoted solely to trashing teachers.  Some of his colleagues check these sites everyday.

Don’t do this! Don’t seek out criticism. There are way too many places for victims and snarky people to congregate on the web.

Also, you can hire someone to filter your website email.  My team filters all my email now, so that I can stay focused on my writing, my clients and on the good stuff that comes in!

7 – Decide again.

In the face of criticism, the only option is to decide again.  Decide to keep shining and living life fully engaged.

Studies have shown that the most common regret among older Americans is of not having taken more risks.  Don’t let this be you!

In the awesome words of Marianne Williamson:

“Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.”

{26 comments ... read them below or add one}

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{26 comments ... read them below or add one}

Deb Owen September 22, 2009 at 12:22 am

OK. I need to add a link in my post today to this. ;-)

Thanks Christine!
All the best!
deb

[Reply]

Christi September 22, 2009 at 4:39 am

I agree with you for certain types of criticism – the kind that really does stem from another’s insecurities and is designed to hurt and tear us down in order to build the other person up.

But I believe that some criticism really is constructive. There have been times that a good friend has told me something critical that I really needed to hear. If our actions are hurtful or damaging to ourselves or others, it can definitely be an act of courage for someone to speak up and tell us.

On a different note, sometimes as writers and artists, I think the more valuable feedback comes from specific suggestions instead of “It’s great! I love it!” If I’m trying to revise a piece, a simple “I liked it,” isn’t nearly as helpful as someone giving me a sense of what worked…and what didn’t.

I think the key, for me, is listening to myself as well as to my history with the person in order to determine if what they’re saying is helpful or harmful.

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Positively Present September 22, 2009 at 6:50 am

You’re right… I’d rather not have criticism to deal with, but since I’d prefer not to live a completely boring life, it looks like critics are going to be appear every now and then. And when they come my way, I’m going to come right back to this article for some fantastic advice. Criticism isn’t always easy, but I know the advice you’ve written here will be so helpful. Thank you! :)

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Heidi in SA September 22, 2009 at 8:59 am

CK … thanks for this awesome article … I have a daughter who really struggles to deal with crit, & it’s hard to help her through it.
Especially when I am the one levelling the crit (for whatever reason) … even constructive crit devastates her!
I’m going to use your FAB points to work through some things with her, one step at a time … am working hard on the Constructive Parenting side of being a single mom (of 3 littlies under 10)!!
I read your blog daily, & cherish the nuggets esp like the Art of Falling Apart. Am learning so to GIVE MYSELF PERMISSION to be what’s inside! And to embrace my imperfections (‘cos I DON’T LIKE failing! Duh, who does!).
Thanks for doing what you do … my little clique’ love it!
Go girlo!

[Reply]

Joy September 22, 2009 at 10:20 am

How timely, Christine.

I’ve made a textile piece on ‘Honesty’ and during the research looked at a number of quotes on the subject. I found one by Richard J Needham (Canadian columnist) “People who are brutally honest get more satisfaction out of the brutality than out of the honesty.”

I bore this in mind when stewarding the exhibition that it’s now in and it helped me tolerate the people who looked but didn’t read, and then said “what’s all that about?”

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Jer September 22, 2009 at 10:23 am

funny that the other day i just got the first negative comment on the movie review blog i’ve been doing for the past 6 months. i guess the more readers i get, the better chance there is of that. despite every other person saying they like it and enjoy reading it, that one negative comment was the one that stuck with me.

there’s no way i’d stop writing my reviews just because of negative criticism, but i can understand how somebody could want to stop doing something because of that. it makes you feel like a fraud and confirms those “i-really-don’t-know-what-i’m-doing” fears. when really, it’s probably just because i didn’t like somebody’s favorite movie as much as they did…

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Marie September 22, 2009 at 11:31 am

Great post – I’m in a line of work where I get a lot of criticism, and also deal with a lot of colleagues who try to bully and find victims. You are so right – I think that once I might have been sensitive and hurt by this, but I’m not any longer. I choose not to be. You don’t like me because I’m not your personal slave? PFFFFLLLT to you. Life is more enjoyable, and I’m more free to be me, this way (and once you let people know that bullying or criticism won’t destroy you, they seem to dish it out much less – it must take away the satisfaction of watching someone be run down).

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Jodi at Joy Discovered September 22, 2009 at 11:57 am

Hi Christine! These are all great suggestions. I love your swswsw concept. I take responsibility-to a fault-often times. I am always looking at how what I said or did or thought contributed to the criticism. While it’s good and helps me grow, sometimes it’s debilitating! So I appreciate your comments here about remembering that criticism is about the criticizer often times. Also, like your suggestion, I’ve found that writing it out helps a lot because it stops my monkey brain from repeating the situation over and over–in short, it helps me to get over it.

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Sara Lynn September 22, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Hi Christine. I am a performer and songwriter who deals with criticisms every day. Some are well meant and others fit into the “negative” karma (non constructive) category. I saw your blog post retweeted on Twitter and felt it valuable enough to share that I’ve added it to my own blog at http://www.saralynnmusic/blog. I have of course included a link back to your yours and credited you the info. Thank you for the words of wisdom!

- Sara Lynn

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Chrissy September 22, 2009 at 8:49 pm

Great post Christine!! Thanks for what you’re doing. Your blog is helpful, practical and inspirational! I never miss a day :)

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Linni September 23, 2009 at 6:39 am

Oh wow!!!! What an amazing post for me right now.

I made a decision
I’ve swswswswsws….
I’ve stepped into my power…
I gave myself time to grieve (oh boy!)
I’ve coached myself…
I knew it was not about me…
I’m protecting myself…
I’ve made a decision.

WOW!!!!! Wish I lived closer to attend your seminars…Super amazing woman! Yes you!

Thank you for being here! xx

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Your Joy September 23, 2009 at 8:12 am

the world would be a better place if everyone read your words of wisdom.

actually, the world is a better place because some people do.

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Diane September 23, 2009 at 11:47 am

Years ago I went through the Dale Carnegie program. One of the first things we were taught has always stuck with me. “There is no such thing as constructive criticism.” Thanks Christine for all you do.

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Sue Sullivan September 23, 2009 at 12:13 pm

This is great, Christine. After leaving my last job with my tail between my legs, I knew I needed to learn to deal with criticism. Posts like this are really helping.

The ironic thing about that last job was I later found out that the area I was in charge of was the one of most successful and productive on the project. And that was a result of my leadership. The people who were attacking me were the ones drowning.

[Reply]

Paula September 23, 2009 at 2:28 pm

swswswsw – absolutely terrific. And for Linni – I live in WA state and attended Christine’s retreat in June. So worth it!!!

[Reply]

Christine Kane September 23, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Thanks for all the great thoughts here. Just wanna make sure you all know that SWSWSWSW isn’t mine. It’s a pretty commonly used mantra. I first got it from jack canfield.

And let’s hear it for committing to step up bigger in spite of the gunk! :-)

[Reply]

sue September 23, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Always learn new things from you.

Agree whole heartedly with ‘your joy’. :)

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Mary Jo (Sam) September 23, 2009 at 6:55 pm

So Christine, did you check with Jack Canfield? to make sure it was ok?

After reading all of the posts, I guess I am pretty lucky. The person who criticizes me on a daily basis is ME! Guess I need to work on the swswswsw with my inner self and quit second guessing myself all the time. I am very luck to work in an environment where I am reassured that I am doing a great job before any suggestions for improvement occur. I can, however also use some of this advice with the kiddos I work with! Thank you!

[Reply]

Michelle Halpern January 10, 2010 at 1:10 pm
Michele July 31, 2010 at 5:04 pm

“Criticism is never about you. It’s always about the person doing the criticizing.”

I disagree with the above assertion. Criticism IS often about the person it’s being levelled at. Some criticism is absolutely accurate, some is well-intended, some is very helpful indeed.

The trick is to have the maturity, discernment, humility, and honesty to listen to criticism of oneself and be able to figure out if it’s well-intended and/or accurate, and to respond accordingly.

For example,
You may decide that the criticism is without basis, or only partly true, or entirely true.
You may decide to act on it and make changes, or you may decide to stay on the same path.
You may decide to see inaccurate criticism as an indicator of how you appear to others, how your actions or motives are routinely misinterpreted, and how you might be able to do a few simple things to lessen these misunderstandings that others have about you, while still being true to yourself.
You may decide graciously to thank the person who extended the advice to you, whether or not you agree with him/her.

That reasoned analysis is where your power lies; power does not lie in putting your fingers in your ears and going “la la la la” because you believe that no criticism of yourself could ever be valid.

People who think that no criticism is ever truthful, ever about themselves, or ever delivered with good intentions can come across as self-absorbed, egotistical, and deliberately living with blinders on. They also reject a lot of advice that they could use to further their own aims, self-development, and happiness.

[Reply]

Amanda Easton November 6, 2010 at 4:07 am

Wow – thank you! This is such good advice and did I mention to say thank you, thank you!? I am a music artist and unfortunately (often very public) criticism is to be expected in any field where you actually need to seek exposure to earn your living. A negative comment or two after putting up videos on YouTube can mean hours of me curled up on the lounge deflated and small. But I sing and write songs to expand and feel joyous and big! And it may have taken me months and every shred of my talent to put that video together and someone will comment ‘That’s shit’. Two little words – so little effort on their part. So much hurt on mine. I really need to grow a harder shell – if I keep remembering the advice in your blog here I may well just do that. Thanks again.

[Reply]

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