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A Guide to Handling Criticism

“A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful” – Proverbs 28:13 

“Everyone’s a critic.” There’s no doubt that we have heard these words being uttered at some point. When the word ‘critic’ springs to mind, we immediately assume people have a problem with someone or something and just want to complain. Believe it or not, this isn’t (always) the case. 

The overall concept of criticism is to provide feedback. It doesn’t matter where you are – a place of education, work, or even at home – you’re going to hear criticism of some sort from another person. You may feel taken back by the criticism you’ve received, especially if it’s sudden or you’ve been concentrating on a particular task or activity for so long that you are fully dedicated to. The important thing is how you respond to it, and some people don’t take it well. 

If you have difficulty handling any criticism that you’ve been given, then this article is for you. This guide, consisting of five tips, will provide you with advice to help you improve your habits and your mindset when faced with adversity. 

Control Your Reaction 

Your reaction to the criticism you may receive is absolutely vital. Even when you are not in a professional or work environment, you need to display maturity and professionalism. The worst thing you could do is respond poorly to what you’ve just been told, as this will unquestionably make you look bad and affect your reputation

After you’re informed of the criticism, take a deep breath and pause. Nine times out of ten, the criticism that’s carried out is constructive, not destructive. The person who issued it wants you to improve and they certainly do not view you as a terrible individual. They know that you can achieve greater things and had no intention of upsetting you. If the criticism genuinely was unanticipated, you may need some time to think about it (see the next point for more on this). 

It must also be noted that, even if you don’t verbally respond to what you’ve been told, your body language and facial expressions may unconsciously exhibit your reaction. By taking that deep breath and pausing, it can prevent those from happening, but there is a conscious response you can do to show that you are in control: smile. Even if it’s a false one, it shows that you’re motivated and can diffuse any tension that may have arisen between yourself and the critic. 


You may take some time to process what you’ve been told, so the best thing to do is to utilise deconstruction. This is a method of analysis that’s going to be very useful for you, especially when you have been provided with feedback. As the word implies, instead of constructing (I.e., creating) something, you are taking it apart to look at the finer details more closely. To help deconstruct what you’ve been told, you should be open-minded and ask specific questions relating to the criticism to improve yourself by understanding where you went wrong. 

As you do this, listen closely to your peer’s intentions – they may appear confrontational, but it could be them dealing with their own personal issues. Thus, this means they obviously don’t have anything against you personally. The key here is to evaluate it in a positive manner. You should also determine whether the criticism is constructive or destructive; if their tone implies the latter, you should tell them how their words are making you feel. If the person is of a higher authority, they may be trying to demean you. However, you mustn’t make any excuses or be defensive regardless of the way they’ve communicated with you. Keep it calm and be civilised. 

Don’t Take It Personally 

It can be very easy to take things personally. This stems from how some people see the work they do, professionally or not, as a part of who they are. The criticism is being directed at the work you’re doing, not yourself, so it’s important to separate yourself from your work. The errors that you might’ve created don’t reflect who you are as a human being. The critic sees you as their equal and only wants to help you improve, and you should use this opportunity to do so. 

Apologise and Be Gracious 

This may sound like an oddity, but depending on how badly things have occurred, an apology is important if a situation has gone awry. Apologising may be a difficult thing to do but it is key to showing empathy and that you can accept responsibility for your actions and are not avoiding doing so. 

Another thing you should also do when receiving criticism is showing that you appreciate your peer’s words. By being grateful to hear what they have to say, it will help you calm yourself in contrast to your prior reactions to previous criticisms so you can adapt to this new behaviour. Remember, it’s not just you who might be the uncomfortable one in this situation, as your peer might feel the same way having to issue it. You should be thankful for their honesty if they’re wishing to be constructive, while also making it clear that you’re going to use this opportunity to improve yourself not just in this instance, but for the future. 

Share It 

Talking is a very good way to relieve yourself of any worries or stresses you might have. You might be wondering if the criticism you’ve received is fully deserved or not, and if you’re normally rather sensitive, the best thing to do is to relay the words to another person for a second opinion. They could be another colleague, an advisor, or some form of mentor you have. Whether they agree with the criticism or not, it will provide you with closure and a sound mind, allowing you to determine where to go next. 

In Short 

It’s essential that you are careful with your reaction when you receive criticism, as a less than calm and civilised response shows a lack of professionalism that could affect your credibility. You need to listen closely to what you’ve been told and observe where you went wrong. You mustn’t take it on a personal level, as the work you do does not reflect who you are as a person. 

When responding to any critical feedback, you should apologise if it’s caused harm and be thankful that the person speaking to you was honest. Make it clear you’re going to use it to help you improve yourself for the future. If need be, share any criticism with someone you know to see if they agree with it, then decide where to go from there. 

Criticism exists. There’s no way to escape it. The only thing you can do is accept that it’ll always be there as a way to teach you on how to be better than before. We all want to improve. 

This article was thoroughly researched with the intent of helping those who wish to handle criticism better. These were only five tips, so if you wish to have more advice relating to this topic, contact us at Ceed today. 

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