I used to get very defensive whenever I received any form of criticism. I would spend all my energy trying to be perfect and avoid negative or constructive feedback. Also, I would apologise excessively whenever I sensed any form of criticism coming my way. Still, my efforts did not work. There was often one area or another for which people still gave me constructive criticism.
Till today, I am still trying to get used to it being criticised. I understand how tough it can be to receive feedback and not internalise it. So in this post, I’ve decided to offer three tips to help you handle criticism a little better, especially when it comes from your nearest and dearest.
Hear them out
Listen; both to the message and the source. Don’t shut down and don’t be defensive. Doing either robs you of a potential learning experience. I used to be so defensive, I would raise my voice trying to explain myself. Not only did it not work, it also created walls in my relationships that were difficult to surmount. I have had to learn to be secure enough to listen, being confident in my self-worth regardless of the criticism.
Assess before you accept or reject
Doing this helped me learn two things about myself: I have a tendency towards being defensive and resentful. Also, I am not lazy. You have to entertain the possibility of your critic being correct or wrong. As calmly as possible, evaluate the criticism and the critic. Compare what is being said at that moment to what others have said to you on the same issue, and look for a common thread of truth.
The critic may be telling the truth from a place of malice. Take the message, dump the messenger. On the other hand, the critic may mean well while misunderstanding the issue. In this case, you don’t have to accept the words the truth. You can choose to explain to him/her or let it pass. Either way, you have a choice about how to respond and you have a choice about what to accept.
I’m not quite there yet, but I am getting better at handling anger and bitterness. I’m also getting better at identifying well-meaning criticism and recognising malice and misguided help. While you shouldn’t go around letting people tear you down, you should remain open to, and actively seek constructive criticism. And then you should work on the areas that need improvement, whether it’s in curbing your temper or finding better friends.
In the end, however you choose to go about it, no one should be more committed to your own self-improvement than you are.