What Criticism Really Is And How to Effectively Deal With It
One day years ago, I was painting the back deck of our family home.
I was a teenager at the time.
My dad was a perfectionist.
I was rolling the paint roller back and forth, minding my own business. My dad had been observing my work from behind and moved in to offer his commentary.
Grabbing the roller from my hand, he instructed, “No, son. Take the roller and do it like this. You won’t get the paint to spread right the way you’re doing it.”
I tried again.
He intervened again.
“No, you didn’t pay attention. Do it like this, back and forth with even strokes.”
I slammed down the roller, turned, and looked him straight in the eye.
“Fine. You do it yourself then.”
I then swung the screen door open, trampled off to my room, and locked the door.
I didn’t paint anymore that day.
I don’t think my dad and I even talked any more that day.
Criticism is a Hammer
Let’s face it, sometimes you have to correct someone.
So how do you handle it without ruffling their feathers so much they storm off in protest?
First, remember that humans aren’t machines. They are bristling with emotions, prejudices, and opinions. Stab them and they bleed as much as you would if someone stabbed you.
Second, take a minute to think before you speak. Hastily uttered words can light forest fires of contempt. Even Jesus took time to thread his whip before He turned the tables in the temple.
Third, acknowledge that the criticism you offer is really your opinion. There might be a thousand right ways to do something. But if you take your one way and make it gospel truth, then you’re headed for trouble.
How to Receive Criticism Without Losing Your Mind
Criticism can hurt worse than a gunshot wound to the chest.
Here is some armor for the onslaught.
First, don’t just assume your critic is absolutely right and you are absolutely wrong.
We all have opinions. We all believe our way is the best way. Honor that others have valid opinions and you can have a civil conversation.
Second, know that our need to be right fuels our emotional responses.
Feeling you’re right is essential to your sense of security. You’ll defend that like you’d defend your family. So when someone comes along and challenges you, pause for a moment.
While you pause, listen to what your critic is really saying. Ask clarifying questions. Then offer honest reasons why you thought you were doing the right thing.
Once people are heard, they’re more willing to listen.
Third, focus on what the critic is really harping on — behavior.
Even when a person puts unjust labels on you, there’s something deeper going on. Perhaps they feel threatened and would rather attack than talk. When this happens, it’s very hard to engage in a way that solves the problem.
Politely tell them you’ll be happy to talk when they are willing to do so in a civil and respectful way.
Then walk away.
In a situation where this is impossible, do your best not to aggravate and intensify that person’s emotions. Here are some emotional neutralizers:
“Yes, I see what you’re saying.”
“I understand why you feel as you do.”
“You raise a valid point.”
You aren’t necessarily agreeing with their opinion. You’re merely validating their right to have one.
And hopefully, your critic will calm down and do the same for you.
Now Do This
The next time you feel like criticizing someone, stop and think about it first.
You’ll save yourself from needless arguments, damaged friendships, and stunted progress.
And you’ll probably get more respect, be more persuasive, and become a leader people go to for answers.