How to Respond to Criticism in a Resourceful Way

Dealing with criticism is a difficult challenge for most of us. When faced with “negative feedback” we all tend to avoid it or to become defensive; it’s almost an automatic reaction. The reason why we encounter difficulties in managing critics or different points of view is that we feel hurt. People are naturally driven by the desire to be accepted, appreciated, and loved just the way they are. Therefore, we take tough feedback way too personally and perceive it as an open attack against us rather than against our behavior. Fortunately, we can learn to change this inner perception and the unpleasant feelings that come with it.

If you too have trouble communicating due to a high sensitivity to negative feedback, then this post is just what you need. I will give you a seven-step plan to respond to critics in a constructive, helpful and resourceful manner.

How Does Being Open to Criticism Help You?

First of all, when dealing with what seems a judgmental opinion, it’s important to admit to yourself that it may contain valuable information. Consequently, you become more receptive to feedback. Furthermore, paying honest attention to what the other person wants you to know helps you in two ways:

– you gain information about the problem itself (and therefore you know better how to respond)
– you show the other person that you care and that you are willing to work it out together

As a result, you learn to receive feedback positively and to improve communication with someone important to you.

Seven Keys to Helpfully Managing Negative Feedback

1. Start by telling the other person that his/her personal observation helps you to raise your awareness

“Thank you for bringing this up. I wasn’t aware that I was doing something hurtful to you. Knowing what bothers you helps me to act differently in the future.”

2. Sincere apologies improve communication and strengthen the rapport

When your partner has a strong negative reaction to something you did or said, it’s best to set your ego aside. Admitting that you were wrong is a healthy way to manage a critical attitude. Even when you haven’t done anything harmful, at least not intentionally, be open to the other person’s perception.

You can say: “I am really sorry that I’ve made you feel that way.” These words have a profound impact on your rapport.

3. After showing your willingness to remain open to the communication, you can express your point of view

Your feelings are just as important as the feelings of the other person. As a matter of fact, talking about the logic behind your behavior clears the air. Even though it may not solve the problem, it surely brings it closer to home.

“The fact that I am not looking at you when you’re talking to me helps me to process what you are telling me. By concentrating my eyes on another thing, I can connect better to the meaning of your words.”

4. Ask your partner to explain what you can do differently

This kind of feedback transforms the criticism into constructive feedback. This way, you gain perspective on the things that really matter for him/her.

“What can I do to make it up to you? How would you like me to handle this situation in the future? What exactly is it that you want from me? Knowing this would help me understand your needs related to this subject matter.”

5. Combine the feedback with your personal needs and points of view and let the other person know your intentions

“When faced again with this kind of situation, I will talk to you before making any decision.”

“Now that we’ve established that it’s my responsibility to take the dog out, I will do it.”

6. If you have a different opinion, even after you gained insightful information, let you partner know it

“Thank you for sharing your feelings and observation on this problem. Here’s how I understand things.”

7. If your points of view are like two parallel lines, you can decide not to debate the problem

There are situations when talking doesn’t help at all. Maybe the timing isn’t appropriate. On the other hand, it’s possible that you both have strong values which neither of you compromises on.

“Our beliefs are way too profound and too different. I don’t think that we have anything to gain if we continue this discussion. Let’s agree to disagree.”

Each one of these approaches brings you a fresh perspective on a tense experience involving criticism. Learning to integrate them into your approach helps you to gain more self-control. Furthermore, learning to respond to critics in a constructive way adds great value to your relationships. Are you ready to apply them?


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