Regardless of what you do in life, you are bound to receive criticism as some point. For the purposes of this article, criticism is a negative reaction to something that you do. Someone then feels compelled to share that opinion with you whether you ask for it or not.
Types of Criticism
Technically, there are two types of criticism in this world, regular criticism and constructive criticism. Someone may use regular criticism with the intent to hurt you, force you to do something, or prevent you from doing something. Constructive criticism is often described as something negative that is actually supposed to cause a positive response. While some literature out there distinguishes constructive criticism as something positive, I think of it as simply regular negative criticism with a smile on your face.
Regardless of the intent behind the criticizer, criticism can really hurt. It can make us second guess our actions or decisions. It can even stop us dead in our tracks. That is unless we know how to take advantage of criticism. Turn that negative into a positive, if you will.
There are three tactics I like to use to turn criticism from a negative into a positive. Generally speaking, think of criticism as a chance to self-reflect. Here are three ways to do that:
- Understand that criticism is just an opinion: Criticism is not a fact, nor is it necessarily true. If it were, it wouldn’t be criticism. Criticism is nothing more than someone’s opinion. An opinion may be based in fact, but it isn’t inherently true. Thus, you have the chance to accept or reject someone’s opinion. Take the opportunity to reflect on yourself. Do you agree with the opinion? If so, change you action or decision. If not, move on.
- Criticism is not bad by its nature, you judge it as bad: Words are not good or bad by the nature. We assign judgment to words as “good” or “bad.” If someone tells you that you made the wrong decision, you judge that as something bad. Therefore, try to avoid labels such as “good,” “bad,” “right,” “wrong.” Look at the criticism for what it is. Don’t add your own judgment or emotions.
- Criticism that stings is often revealing something you already know and agree with: If it stings when someone says you eat too much dessert, it’s probably stings because you also think you eat too much dessert. If it stings when a coworker says you made a bad decision, it’s probably because a part of you also thinks you made an incorrect decision. Similar to #2 above, it isn’t the words that hurt us, it is someone else pointing out what we already know, but don’t like. Take this as a chance to reflect on yourself and change what you don’t like.
Criticism is rough. We are taught from an early age to let our ego and emotions get in the way. Therefore, it takes practice to turn something negative, like criticism, into a positive. However, when you can do it, you will find yourself welcoming the opinions of others. Maybe, you will even find that you prefer the negative opinions because that gives you the best chance to change for the better.