How To Handle Criticism And Get Something Good Out Of It

This post, from Henrik Edberg, originally appeared on The Positivity Blog on 6/9/09.

“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing”
Receiving criticism isn’t always fun. However there are ways to handle it in a less hurtful way and – sometimes – get something good out of it. Here are a few pointers I have found useful when dealing with criticism.

Like most tips, these are not magic bullets. They won’t work perfectly the first time you use them. You have to practise. Over time your mental muscles will become stronger. And criticism will become easier to deal with and more valuable.
Count to 10 before you speak.
If you react immediately to criticism then you’ll often react in a knee-jerk manner. And the words that come out may be overemotional, vicious and unnecessary. Count to at least 10 after someone has criticised you. Then respond. This simple way of calming yourself down and regaining some perspective can save you a lot of trouble and help you avoid saying something you can’t take back. It’s a good approach to avoid creating unnecessary problems.
Handle it like Buddha.
Maybe you’ve heard this one before. It’s a great and practical way to look at criticism. It might be extra useful when dealing with angry, destructive criticism and nasty personal attacks.
A man interrupted one of the Buddha’s lectures with a flood of abuse. Buddha waited until he had finished and then asked him, “If a man offered a gift to another but the gift was declined, to whom would the gift belong?”
“To the one who offered it,” said the man.
“Then,” said the Buddha, “I decline to accept your abuse and request you to keep it for yourself.”
Simply don’t accept the gift of a criticism. You don’t have to. Then it still belongs to the person who offered it.
Take both praise and criticism evenly.
My mindset for praise – that I try to stick to as much as I can – is that it’s cool and I appreciate it. It’s great to get praise, but I seldom get overly excited about it and jump and down shouting enthusiastically.
A great upside of this mindset is that when you receive the opposite – negative criticism – you can often observe it calmly without too much wild, negative emotions blocking the way. And you can often appreciate that piece of criticism too (if there is something to learned from it).
Basically this mindset is about not caring too much about what other people think. If you do then you easily become pretty needy and let others control how you feel. Both how good and bad you feel.
So you move from depending on external validation to depending more on internal validation. You validate yourself more and more and then you need less of outside validation. Don’t take this too far though. Don´t become that arrogant jerk who never listens to criticism no matter how valid it might be.
If there is nothing to be learned from some piece of criticism you received or it’s just nonsense ravings and insults then with this mindset you just go: “Ok”. You don’t care that much and you quickly forget about it. Instead of spending the rest of the day being angry, sad and riled up.
Shifting into this mindset isn’t always easy. You can slip quite a bit. But if you learn more about your mind – especially about your Ego as Eckhart Tolle describes it in books like Power of Now and A New Earth – this understanding gives you more control over your reactions and less knee-jerk responses.

Read the rest of the post on The Positivity Blog.