Dealing with criticism

Don’t you find it amazing how many people refuse to accept criticism? Surely you also know the feeling when, in the face of criticism, our inner defense mechanism is immediately ready to kick in: Any objective approach is instantly out of action and a productive conversation becomes impossible. We often react to criticism as emotionally as to an insult or as violently as to an attack, thereby showing our insecurity. If you want to become more relaxed and open when dealing with criticism, you can try to track down the causes of this insecurity or use methods to outsmart it until you make it disappear.

Let’s assume that there is only constructive criticism. (Destructive criticism usually has nothing to do with the recipient of the message, it only qualifies the sender’s state of mind. Therefore, we can safely forget it.) Constructive criticism is benevolent, appreciative, motivating, goal-oriented and beneficial – basically a gift of life. In this way, our fellow human being shows us the importance we have in his or her eyes.

In a complex world in which each one of us is part of different systems or networks and strives to be successful in them, constructive criticism is an integral part of the game. It is a measuring instrument for our own optimization and a compass that helps us to hold our direction or to correct it. It is not an attack, so we don’t need to defend ourselves. It is not an absolute truth and cannot be refuted, because we cannot determine how someone else sees us and our behavior.

Being able to accept criticism and use it for self-reflection is an art in itself that can be learned. Anyone who allows constructive criticism demonstrates greatness and maturity. Those who criticize in a constructive manner, prove their leadership qualities, self-confidence and empathy.

Here is an exercise: Explain your project or concern to someone you respect and whose opinion you value. Ask them actively for constructive criticism. Be open and imagine that the other person only wishes you well. If you hear “something critical”, don’t respond with justification or rejection. Ask what made this person feel that way. At the end, thank your counterpart for being candid. This experience will surely leave both of you with a positive feeling.

At every level, the constructive criticism of others helps us grow, see our own behavior differently and perhaps optimize our project. Let’s practice criticism with finesse and as respectfully as we would like to be criticized by other people.

As we know, the consistent implementation of constructive communication, especially in families, groups and teams, is often difficult: personalities of different age and experience, from different cultural backgrounds meet in a universe of objectives, obligations, competition, existential worries and adjustments to frequently changing circumstances. It is important to pay attention to fairness, diversity and inclusion, to offer everyone room for development and to avoid discrimination. Not an easy task, rather hard to solve without external help! If there is a need, I will be happy to put together a well-balanced motivational workshop for you and your family or team around the subject of “positive communication and constructive criticism”.

In the meantime, may you receive plenty of appreciation from those around you!

Best wishes, Tatjana Gaspar