Creative Leadership

How To Deal With Critics

From time to time, I get a few critics on this blog, so I thought I’d write on how I deal with them. I wrote about the issue in my book “One Big Thing” and it’s good advice during the difficult times when you receive criticism for your ideas, projects, performance, and more.  Here are a few important tips when criticism comes your way:

1. Take it.
Don’t be defensive and fire back. Listen and learn. It may be completely ridiculous, but even the worst critics sometimes stumble onto a grain of truth. My opinion is that we can always learn and grow, so never shut the door on a critic too quickly. Even though you may think it’s unfair (and it may well be), take it. Listen to the critic and see if there’s anything there worth changing.

2. Admit your mistakes.
Nothing so surprises and disarms a critic like someone who agrees with him. If it’s good criticism, your admission is appropriate and welcomed. Even if it’s not good criticism, then you’ve taken away his ammunition. Man up. Don’t argue. Just say thank you and move on. In most situations, graciously accepting criticism usually catches the critic off-guard and in many cases, silences him.

3. Gently explain the reasons for your action.
I have a quote from Plato on my computer desktop: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Sometimes we mess up, don’t know what the other person is going through, and simply make mistakes in judgment. On the flip side, the critics don’t know everything behind your actions either. So without being defensive, explain yourself. It’s not about rationalizing or explaining away the criticism, but informing the critic of what you were thinking (or not thinking). In many cases, once he or she realizes your motivation, the comment will be dropped.

It’s actually not the criticism you receive, but how you handle it that matters.

The experience can make you better or can destroy you. The decision is yours.

Which way will you choose?

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    1. That’s a different problem and it’s about boundaries. If at all possible, you need to draw a line with people like this. If they’re criticizing just to hurt you, then turn it off, and stop listening. If possible in the office, move your desk or office. When it comes to negative, hurtful people, the best thing you can do is shut them off from speaking into your life.

  1. Thanks for the great advice. I recently had a situation on one of my Facebook pages where the person was very upset about a certain aspect of a film that we distribute. We gave him space to voice his opinion and explained our view. We clearly stated that we respect his right to his opinion, even though we don’t necessarily agree with it and thanked him for engaging with us on our page. It is always important to show your critics respect!

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