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“Don’t always scrape and search for compliments. Criticism is what builds character and strength” – author unknown

nTo be honest, most of us are not overly thrilled to receive criticism. It can be a blow to our ego when we feel that we are doing our best and then, seemingly out of nowhere, down comes the hammer of criticism. Ouch! Criticism is judgement and no one likes to be judged. But criticism is important for our success in our personal relationships as well as our professional lives. We need to be able to hear the opinions of others and take criticism if we hope to improve. Most of us would probably not improve very much if we just relied on ourselves and our own opinions.

Sometimes criticism can come across as harsh, if not done correctly. Sometimes it can feel like someone is personally attacking us. But not all criticism is necessarily bad. On the contrary, criticism, when done correctly, can be beneficial.  It is important to distinguish between harmful criticism and helpful criticism and understand how to respond. And finally, learning how to turn criticism into an advantage can help you navigate successfully in all areas of your life.

Constructive and Destructive Criticism

Destructive Criticism

The intent of destructive criticism is hurt. and it often comes across as a personal attack. The criticizer uses means such as blaming, manipulation, character assassination or any other demeaning technique to point out only what he or she does not like. The focus is only on the negative and is generally not specific or helpful. Often the person can not provide any evidence to back up his claims. The recipient of this type of criticism feels defeated without understanding what he has done wrong or how to fix it.

Constructive Criticism

The intent of constructive criticism is to inform, help and encourage. The goal is to help the recipient be better at what they do or learn how to improve. Generally, constructive criticism is specific and concrete in content.  Constructive criticism usually includes statements sharing what is positive about the recipient, for example ” I like that you… ” before bringing in the constructive criticism. This kind of feedback gives the recipient clear, specific information about how to correct errors and improve. It builds confidence and trust.


“He who throws dirt always loses ground.” —Unknown


How to Respond to Destructive Criticism


It can be tempting to react emotionally to defend our sense of dignity, our ego or to counter attack with accusations. But doing so will probably only escalate the situation, increase animosity and cause the other person to lose respect for you.  Take a bit of time to breathe and put the emotions aside.


When someone is railing criticism at you, they don’t want to hear your side; they only want to vent their point of view. It is not a good idea to try to cut in with your own perspective or counter argue.  Let them talk (or vent). Eventually, they will run out of steam. Then you will have some time to proceed.


When you do get an opportunity to speak, use it in order to ask genuine questions. Ask because you are curious as to what they want you to do or what they want you to change. Ask for clarification. Ask the person to give you specific suggestions of how you can improve. Ask to gain more insight into what is bothering them. Be genuinely interested in hearing them out.


Don’t get derailed. Sometimes when a person is handing out negative criticism, he can easily go off into other unrelated tangents , and bring up past and completely unrelated incidents. Stick with the facts and discuss these and the current situation. if necessary, reroute the conversation back to the facts. Don’t allow the person to use ammunition from the past to attack you.


When you have the time to pause, take this time to think about what was said, not for the purpose of replaying the audio, but in order to see if the person may have had some valid points. The delivery might not have been constructive, but maybe there are some issues that need to be addressed. Identify your responsibility and be honest about any failings on your end that may have contributed.  Also, try to identify any triggers that may have led up to this harsh criticism.

Remember that you are under no obligation to share the other person’s point of view or change anything that you do not agree with. Criticism is, after all, an expression of opinion. You can simply thank them for sharing without having to to commit to anything.


“Every human being is entitled to courtesy and consideration. Constructive criticism is not only to be expected but sought.” –Margaret Chase Smith


How to Respond to Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism is meant to help someone learn and improve.  The goal is not to tear down, but to build up.  Even so, criticism of any kind is not always easy to swallow. It can be a blow to our ego and cause us to respond emotionally or defensively in order to protect the image we have built up of ourselves.

In order to benefit from constructive criticism, we need to step outside of ourselves and evaluate what is being said.


Take the time needed whether this is a few hours or a couple of days to reflect on the feedback you have been given. You need to give yourself time to first calm the protective emotions and then objectively think about the feedback itself.


Was this feedback valid? Was it useful? Was it necessary? If the answer to these questions is yes, then move on to the next step which is –


Inquire to obtain further information. Ask the person if they can clarify for you what their objective is and how you can change in order to benefit from their feedback. You might want to ask them for specific suggestions as to what you can do to improve. Asking for help is always a winning option because people love to give their advice.


Show the person that you value their feedback and take it seriously by providing updates on what you have done to implement their suggestions. Not only will this earn you their respect, but you will have also built trust.


Turn Criticism Into A Positive

Criticism can be a game-changer for your own personal development,  Here is how you can use specifically apply criticism to your benefit.


1. Create a plan of action to implement change for the better

2. Set specific goals (with rewards)

3. Make necessary changes according to plan


Doing these will give you a boost in confidence and help you to feel that you are fully in charge of your work and your progress. It will also show others that you are serious and committed to excellence.


“Don’t criticize what you can’t understand.” –Bob Dylan


How You Can Turn Criticism to Your Advantage


Use Criticism to Practice Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution Skills

All of life is a laboratory and being the recipient of criticism can be a lab class. What an excellent opportunity to put your personal relationship skills to the test. You can turn this situation into a learning opportunity to see if you can apply what you know about responding correctly to criticism. Rather than being a “poor victim” of someone else, you can turn it into a teachable moment.  Try to see how well you did and if you were able to deal with the situation in a healthy way.

Use Criticism to Launch New Skills

Why not use this situation in which someone has pointed out your weakness or errors to decide to up your game and develop new skills or learn how to improve the skills you already have?  Turn the negative into a positive.  If the criticism was the constructive variety, why not take them at their word and go above and beyond their expectations to improve and learn. Even if the criticism was destructive, that doesn’t mean you have to stay at their level. You can move on and upwards. You can learn and grow.

Use Criticism to Grow Character

Adversity always develops character if we choose to learn from it. We have a choice to stay in the “pit” and roll around in the mud or we can learn from the lessons of opposition. No one is completely wrong or completely right. We can always learn from others. Perhaps they can open our minds and eyes to new perspectives. Perhaps we may have been selectively blind to certain things. Criticism, if done correctly, actually shows that people care enough to help us. It fosters trust and gives us the freedom to share feedback in kind.  Learning how to tame criticism and use it to our advantage helps us to grow and thicker skin in the face of adversity.

Use Criticism to Learn about Other People and Temperaments

Criticism gives us an opportunity to do a people study – how they think, how they act, what triggers them, what their personality traits are. Imagine the learning possibilities there are in doing a people study. We can learn how to deal with different temperaments and understand why certain people act one way and others do not.  This laboratory opportunity can give us new people skills to hone and use in the future.  And of course we can put our learning to good use in future situations.

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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, traveling, learning, and pursuing a debt-free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. Diana is a Quebec City girl. who loves living life.  You can connect with her through