by Melanie Greene

Dealing with criticism

When someone criticises us, they are usually making a judgement about us or our behaviour, such as

  • You’re not very good at financial management...
  • That was a terrible presentation!
  • What were you thinking about when you said X in that meeting?

This is very different from constructive feedback, which provides information about what actually happened, what you can change and even ideas for how you can develop yourself further, for example:

  • You seem to be finding the financial management side of your job a bit tricky, especially the forecasting. Let’s sit down and talk about what support and development you need and see if I can be of any assistance.

Criticism is a personal judgement; it is usually not helpful and, if we are lacking in confidence, we can let it further undermine us.

Five steps to handling criticism

There are five steps to dealing with criticism from others:

  1. Take a step back and look at what they have said in an objective way, managing your reactions to the situation – see Managing your mood in this topic for assistance with this
  2. If the criticism has been taken up by your inner critic, take time out to listen to your whole self and not just what your inner critic has to say about this – see Mastering your inner critic in the Coaching Yourself topic
  3. Step into the other person’s shoes and ask yourself
  • What mood were they in and how might this have affected their viewpoint and the way in which they put their views across?
  • Do they have your best interests at heart? If so, is there any truth in what they are saying?
  1. Find someone else whom you trust and respect and check out their viewpoint on the situation and criticism
  2. Find a way to respond to the comments in a constructive way. One way of doing this is to reframe what the person has said, along the lines suggested below.
Criticism from others: Reframing it: You’re not very good at financial management. I am looking for further development in this area, do you have any suggestions? That was a terrible presentation! It was certainly a challenging situation, I think I handled X pretty well. What were you thinking about when you said X in that meeting? No doubt there were many things I could have said in that situation; saying X seemed to be the best possible option at the time. With hindsight... [or] What would you have said?

Think of some criticism that you have recently received. How might you have reframed it?

Reframing in your head

Sometimes we are so wrong footed by a person’s comments that either we don’t have time to comment straight away or the moment passes. However, you can still use reframing retrospectively to help you to see the comment in a different light and make sure that it does not undermine your confidence.

Reframing past criticism

Sometimes a person’s comment lingers with us for a very long time, especially if the inner critic has got hold of it and perhaps continues to repeat it. You can use the reframing process to reframe and, if possible, learn from and then let go of past criticisms.