Learning to Handle Criticism

Few people enjoy criticism, especially when it seems the other person's intent is to hurt or manipulate. But it's not the intent or nature of the criticism that truly makes the difference; it's how you interpret and accept it. You can view criticism as a threat to your self-worth and fold, or you can simply consider the source, forget about it, and go on about your business. It may be uncomfortable when a coworker accuses you of not carrying your load, but it's not terrible. You don't have to believe what he says. He may think you're lazy, but there's no rule that says you need to see things the same way he does.

The ability to handle criticism is a very useful life skill. But before going any further, I believe it's helpful to distinguish between two types of criticism: constructive ("friendly") and destructive ("unfriendly") criticism. The first is meant to be helpful, is normally delivered by someone who cares about you and your feelings, and is usually welcome. The second is hurtful, delivered by someone who doesn't care, and is never welcome. Constructive criticism can be quite valuable: its purpose is to help you learn a thing or two about yourself, grow as a person, or improve your performance in a certain area. Destructive criticism is neither valuable nor helpful: its purpose is to belittle, malign, and control you.

When people think of "criticism," they tend to conjure up the negative images and feelings associated with the destructive type.Dealing effectively with either type of criticism involves knowing what to think, say, and do. One of the first things you want to ask yourself when criticized is, "Is this person's criticism valid?" Many times people give each other constructive criticism because they care about and want to help each other. So there's always the possibility that a particular criticism may be true. Then again, people are imperfect and sometimes give each other invalid criticism.

Only you can decide what you'll accept as true and what you won't. In the end, regardless of the content of the criticism, it's always important to remember that every person is entitled to his or her own opinion.At the heart of over-sensitivity to criticism are numerous musts of perfection, approval, and comfort. Learning to tolerate criticism, then, involves rigorously disputing and challenging your Crazy-Makers. The three primary Crazy-Makers related to criticism are:.1) I must be absolutely perfect in every respect; otherwise, I'm not a good person, and no one will love me.

2) Others must accept and approve of me in every respect; otherwise, I'm not a good person, and life isn't worth living.
3) I must only hear what I want to hear, because I can't tolerate the discomfort of listening to someone tell me about my faults.In the final analysis, it's important to challenge these types of beliefs while not taking criticism personally.

Generally, the criticizer is commenting on something that you're doing, not on who you are as an individual. The trouble begins, though, when you personalize the criticism ? when you apply what the other person says about your behavior to your self-worth. If you're ever tempted to do this, keep in mind that you aren't what other people say or think about you.Dispute your irrational thoughts, stick to the facts, and forget the rest of it.

You'll save yourself a lot of headaches in the long run.

.George D. Zgourides, M.D.

, Psy.D is a physician, clinical psychologist, and healthcare chaplain. He and his wife Christie are the authors of several books dealing with various health-related and self-help topics.

By: George Zgourides

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