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How to Take Criticism

How to take criticism

How to Take Criticism

Taking criticism is a necessary skill, since we all make mistakes occasionally.

Unfortunately, most people hate taking criticism. It dents their pride and self-confidence. So, they defend their errors rather than learn from them.

We need to admit to ourselves we are capable of error, and not take it as a personal insult when criticism is received. We all need to learn how to take criticism and use it to our own advantage.

Learn to take criticism.

Whenever you are confronted with a negative feedback situation, such as a setback, criticism, or a defeat, the proper way to deal with it is not to get angry, defensive, upset, or depressed, but rather to ask and answer the following five evaluative questions:

  1. Is the negative feedback I have received true, or even partially true?
  2. How do I know that it is true? What is the specific evidence?
  3. If it is true, then how would it negatively affect my chances of achieving my goal?
  4. What can I learn from this negative feedback?
  5. What changes do I need to make, to get back on-track to achieve my goal?

By using this method, you will be able to take negative feedback and turn it into a progressive way to move forward and achieve your goals.

Using Feedback Constructively

Remember that the criticism may not be justified, accurate, or fair. It could be the criticism fails the first two evaluative questions. If you can honestly say that the criticism is not true, then you need not make any changes to your actions. However, ensure that you do give the criticism a "fair hearing". Take the criticism straight and judge it as dispassionately as you can.

If it is true, then thank the other person and make the necessary adjustments to your methods. If it is not true, then thank the other person for their comments and carry on with no change.

Insult or Feedback?

Critical feedback is important information. It tells us what we are doing is not working and that we need to change our approach.

But for some people, criticism is a painful experience. They cannot take criticism because they mistake all criticism as an insult, causing them to not accept the need to change. This is made worse when some people make their critical feedback sound like an insult.

Successful people can distinguish between feedback (which they would welcome) and insults (which they may ignore). What distinguishes insult messages from feedback messages?

Insult Messages are: Vague, subjective, opinionated, judgemental, emotional. Intended to hurt. Does NOT suggest a specific corrective action. Badly timed.

Feedback Messages are: Specific, objective, non-opinionated, non-judgemental, non-emotional. Intended to help. Does suggest a specific corrective action. Well timed.

The Proper Interpretation of Negative Feedback

The ability to treat negative feedback correctly, is one of the most important gifts that you can give yourself.

The correct way to interpret negative feedback, is as information that informs us that our current methods are not taking us closer to our goals, and that we need to change, adapt or improve our current plans and actions.

The improper interpretation of negative feedback, is to regard it as a trigger to get angry, upset, defensive, aggressive, disheartened or to lose confidence.

By using negative feedback as a valuable source of information, you will be able to make necessary improvements to your plans and actions. Train yourself not to see all negative events as reasons to lose your temper or confidence.

Giving Constructive Criticism

Once you have trained yourself to see all negative events as constructive feedback information, then your next task is to start to help others to do the same, and help them to respond positively to negative situations.

Unfortunately, many people make their critical feedback sound more like an insult, than guidance.

So, we must learn to word our criticism of others so that it does not sound like an insult.

To give constructive criticism correctly, you must ensure that it is:

  • Well timed.
  • Specific.
  • Objective.
  • Non-judgemental.
  • Non-emotional.
  • And it is suggestive of a specific corrective action.

Leadership and Management Training

Our two-day Leadership and Management training covers the success formula and how to give and receive proper constructive criticism.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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