Having our character criticized is a challenge and obstacle for many, especially writers. Each day invites a myriad of opportunities for our work and behavior to be criticized by someone else, which can be a source of great anxiety. Wanting people to like us is an innate survival trait and hearing someone speak negatively of us, whether it is a stranger or a sibling, can provoke intense feelings. So how can we cope with criticism? The first step in dealing with criticism is to understand the root of it: emotion.
Criticism is defined as serious judgment and when it originates from someone we care about or admire, it can be especially painful. But in truth, a critical remark from someone we love is often their way of expressing the value of our actions. Frequently, negative remarks are the result of inner turmoil and sometimes these comments fail to reflect that person’s true feelings. Addressing criticism with calm regard can reveal conflicts which actually have nothing to do with the unfavorable statement.
Other times, criticism is meant to be a personal jab, stemming from jealousy or private disappointment from the person who made the remark. This type of criticism is usually erroneous in content and meant to incite rather than address a problem. Although some people speak of ‘constructive criticism’, all criticism is negative – it only becomes constructive when we choose to put the negative comment to ‘constructive’ use.
Yet regardless of the intention, most criticism is the result of another person’s struggle and knowing this can clarify underlying motivations and put the nature of the comment into perspective. Separating emotion from critical judgments will lessen its sting and encourage us to choose a more appropriate reaction.
After having evaluated the emotions behind criticism, it is easier to interpret the content of an unfavorable statement. Although this requires us to view the situation from another’s perspective, which can be challenging if the criticism was excessively demeaning or unjust, it can also be freeing to separate ourselves from the situation and question whether there was a better way to handle circumstances. Admitting to a mistake is not a character flaw; rather it is a sign of maturity and usually acknowledges the other individual’s feelings, which can deepen relationships. Even if we conclude the criticism to be unfair, we can be certain in our position by having acknowledged both sides.
Responding to Criticism
Most people make mistakes and keeping this in mind can alleviate the insecurity we might feel from harsh statements by others. Even if a critical statement is deemed inappropriate or untrue, how we respond to it is often more important than the remark itself. If at all possible, avoid the pitfalls of destructive ridicule by stepping beyond negative comebacks, which usually only instigate further criticism. Choosing to heed the opinions of others is a personal decision and is one that should always be respected by both parties if no harm is involved.
When it comes to criticism, remember emotions often complicate judgment and it is better to separate hidden attitudes from the verbal content of remarks. Unfortunately, criticism is a part of life, but the more we view negative feedback as an opportunity to progress or stand up for ourselves, it will have less of an impact on our self-esteem and help us cope better with future criticism.