Handling Criticism:

It’s not all that difficult !

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Criticism is certain – we should expect/anticipate that we will be subject to it time and again. There is no point trying to run away from it. Rather, it is better to gain the skills to be able to handle it.

It starts with our perception of others. We “believe” that some people are of a certain type, we have expectations from them. If we are disappointed, it shows in the form of criticism of the other person. Also, we select what we wish to perceive, what is important to us. Our opinion of others depends on our..…

  • emotional state
  • our programming
  • beliefs/values
  • physiological state of how we are feeling
  • our needs/wants and expectations at that time

For example, women are more likely to criticize husbands, while men typically “stonewall” i.e. they try to put up a blank face and ignore the issue, or even walk out of the conversation.

People who don’t criticize are internalizing – which can have worse consequences. Being criticized regularly can lead to the fear of rejection. Hence it is always good to have positive people around you for second opinion.

We often forget that we too criticize others, sometimes without even realizing what we are doing. Hence since it is a part of our life, let us at least learn the correct way


  • First ask yourself if someone had told you what you are about to say, how you would feel.
  • Build a positive environment. Start and end the conversation on a positive note.
  • Criticize the action, it motivates the individual. Criticizing him as a person de-motivates, or makes him revengeful.
  • Explain to the person what he did, be specific, give facts, without your opinions. Then tell him how you felt due to that action/words
  • Suggest how he can do it differently, offer solutions or alternatives
  • Avoid using insults that your parents or elders used to give you
  • Sarcasm can have very bad effects. Be aware of your tone of speech
  • Be present (not in absentia, or by letter) when you are criticizing
  • Be sensitive, empathic, express your concern or empathy even when pointing out wrong

Another area we need to be aware of is how we put our own selves down at times. It is important to know a few facts about


If our parents have been very critical, their words become an inner critical voice that stays with us. We cannot escape from it even in adult life. We start “thinking” that people are criticizing us.

To avoid these situations, we need to convert such thoughts to positive statements like “I will improve.” As an example, try to recall one regular self-critical remark that you keep making repeatedly, and correct it. Never generalize by saying things like “all my relatives are….”

Here are some more


  • Criticism is feedback – it helps us to improve, hence we should not avoid it at all times.
  • We are oversensitive to certain issues & may react badly e.g. taking out on husband a seething anger a girl has against her Dad.
  • If you become aggressive: it drains you & escalates war
  • If you become passive: it lowers your self esteem, the other person walks all over you, and unconnected third persons form bad opinions about you.
  • Good responses to criticism include: clouding, agreeing in probability, probing or mirroring (“why do you think that I am ….?”)
  • Remind yourself: “I have a right to be wrong” and express it also to the person criticizing

When someone criticizes you, here are some good


  1. Listen without interruption
  2. Give full attention, make eye contact, have a neutral expression
  3. Don’t attack the other person (as defense mechanism), don’t find fault or imply motives
  4. Don’t get pulled down/depressed, nor try to make it a joke
  5. Don’t change the subject and try to avoid the issue.

To be effective, go through the following


  • Is it from horse’s mouth, or hearsay?
  • What is critic saying? Think rationally about it
  • Is he qualified to comment?
  • Does his way of saying hurt you?
  • Is he criticizing you or your action?
  • How does he behave with others?
  • Is it accurate?
  • Is it constructive?
  • Is there an inconsistency in it?

Once you have answered the following questions to yourself,


  • Thank him for the criticism
  • Do not apologize, unless it has hurt him
  • Tell how you will bring about a change
  • Do not let session drag on
  • Keep in mind & introspect how you will interact next time
  • Give yourself positive strokes for having handled the situation in a balanced manner, inwardly thank the person for giving you a deeper insight into yourself, and make a resolution that you will move forward to make a better life.

    If you cannot fight back or wish to avoid unpleasantness with people who criticize without substance……. you have two choices:

    1. Look straight into the face of the person, keeping a very neutral expression, voice low and firm, and say “That is your opinion, and I do not agree with it. I prefer not to discuss this topic. Can we talk something else?”
    2. Give a long and fixed stare at the person without any verbal response, have a serious expression on your face, and slowly but with determination pick up your things and walk out of the room without a word.

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