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September 26, 2013
by Dr. Anthony Centore, Ph.D.

The Best Way to Respond to Criticism

September 26, 2013 04:55 by Dr. Anthony Centore, Ph.D.

We all receive criticism in our lives, whether they be related to our personal or professional downfalls. That said there are countless ways to respond to criticisms, yet not all of them will have equal effects. 

For example, there are several potential ways to respond to criticism being directed at you towards your employers. "You failed to do X, Y, and Z." Now, this is either a correct or false criticism. If it is correct, you may decide to admit guilt and accept the criticism. How you do so is a topic for another discussion.

Less ideally, you can deflect or shift the blame if the criticism is accurate. "It's not my fault" as a response has varied results, but most of the time, it does little to persuade the person who is directing the criticism, especially if you are being dishonest.

What if the criticism is false? At that point, you may feel tempted to let indignation kick in. It's easy, then, for us to be disrespectful of the person in charge of us, but you may feel like this is acceptable, at least in the moment. The real trouble then comes if you are, in fact, proven wrong and the employer has another reason to criticize you. Psychologists agree that these conditions lead to depression and anxiety in many cases.

In each of these situations, there is a much grander way to approach criticism, whether it is true, false or ambiguous. That approach is to stop viewing the criticism as being a good or bad thing and instead view it as an opportunity. Being opportunistic means that you view this criticism as a way to improve yourself. When your employer confronts you, your procedure to listening and responding is vastly different.

Instead of shifting the blame or trying to persuade that you did nothing wrong, you are connecting with the employer at their level by viewing the criticism as a way to improve something that is clearly wrong. The best part about this method is that being proven right will award praise, rather than awkwardness from the person criticizing you. This is because you tackled the situation with fervor, but you were respectful.

The opportunity strategy works in all kinds of situations, especially relationships. If you regularly approach negative feedback from your spouse or family with distrust and irritation, you are merely aggravating something that is already hurting. By viewing all types of feedback as a way to relate and solve problems with the other person, you are establishing a person who has a higher priority then themself.

After all, if you continually present yourself as someone who will say anything to avoid criticism, then almost no trust will exist between you and those that are close to you. The opportunity strategy takes time and experience to transform into a habitual response, but it is very doable. Here is the strategy laid out:

Step 1:

Listen to what the person is saying. Acknowledge whether or not they have the credibility necessary to give you feedback and criticism. If they do not, politely communicate this to them, but be open to hearing what they have to say anyway.

Step 2:

Give your own feedback, but be clear about your intentions to solve the problem by asking questions and confirming what they are accusing you of. Present solutions and ask them how and why they came to their own conclusions.

Step 3:

At this point, you need to either move forward or let it go. In some situations, criticism directed towards you will not be very beneficial or come from someone who knows best. Unless this is an authoritative figure, like your boss and of course your spouse, you may just have to move on. Otherwise, move forward with the criticism and use it to improve what you were unable to do before. Turn your weakness into a strength and prove this growth to the person who presented it to you.

Last thing: be appreciative of anyone who chooses to criticize you. Remember that for some people, pointing out problems and mistakes can be a difficult thing to, especially if you are essentially a nice person and don't want to be hurtful. Thank someone who criticizes and build a relationship that is genuine and built on growth. 


About the Author

Dr. Anthony Centore Dr. Anthony Centore

Anthony Centore PhD is Founder of Thriveworks; a company that provides healthcare practices across the United States with Medical Credentialing, Medical Billing, and Business Consulting services.

Dr. Anthony Centore can be found at
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