The Bitterness of Criticism


There are some people who feel it is their job to be critical of their co-workers and their efforts.  When I come across someone who is like this I often wonder what has caused them to be this way.  Was it a hard parent who was always critical of them?  Do they really think they are superior to others? Or are they really suffering from low self-esteem?

Whatever the reason, when you are on the receiving end of someone’s criticism of you or your work, it can be shocking, hurtful and make you angry.

Corrective criticism is hard to accept, but is good. Critical criticism can be destructive at work.  Below are five good steps to learn and put into action the next time you encounter any criticism at work.

1. Remain calm, this can be hard especially if you are taken by surprise.  By remaining calm you are defusing any escalation of the situation.  Also by remaining calm you can think clearer.  Try to keep good eye contact, listen to what is being said and let the person finish before you speak.

2. When they have finished, acknowledge that you have heard them.  You can “thank” them for what they have said, as they may think they are being helpful. If they are being critical and there is no value to what they have said, by thanking them you can be done with it and not take it any further.

3. There are negative critical people. There also are people we work with that need to give criticism and they may be good at it or they may not be, so make sure you follow “step 4 below before you react.”

4. Take time to think about what was said. Let your mind filter the comment.  Usually we see things differently once we are fully able to process it.  As noted above, if there is something worthwhile in the criticism you do really want to find what it is, especially if it is about your work.  If you react immediately because of emotion you may make more of the situation than what was intended.

5. Take good criticism to heart and view it as a learning experience.  Remove any of the “sharp edges” of what was said and look for the  positive and how you may benefit from it. It is about finding the value, I call it the “chicken and bones time” This is when you dissect what was said, eat the meat (value), and throw away the bones (the initial bite of the negative criticism).   (Or any negatives).

These five steps sound easy, but we all know that it is very hard when we face criticism.  If you follow these steps you will be able to handle it in a much better way.

Good criticism may take time to process, but has value.  Negative criticism needs to be tossed aside so you can move ahead.

One thing you can remember when dealing with criticism is that old saying “when you are given lemons, make lemonade.”  Rise above it and find the positive.


15 thoughts on “The Bitterness of Criticism

  1. Tina,

    Great post. I always think of unexpected criticism or feedback as a learning opportunity. What can I take away and what do I throw away. When it’s somebody being mean I usually throw it all away and move on.

    It can be hard to do and sometimes takes awhile to get there. 🙂

    Have a great day!


  2. People that criticise others on a regular basis are usually afraid that they are being criticised. We usually see the faults in others that we fear we have the same faults.

  3. Great post, Tina. I think ego comes into play for both the giver and receiver of criticism. The less ego we have the better. Sometimes criticism can trigger earlier experiences we might have had with a critical parent. I think that happened to me, A LOT, when I was growing up. It felt like all criticism was destructive – I couldn’t tell the good from the bad because it triggered my father’s judgement of me. In time I learned to recognize that trigger and take criticism at face value and not read anything more into it!
    I also think the giver, like you said, can dole out criticism because they need to feel superior – again, an ego thing.
    It’s a great topic. I think we’re all vulnerable and struggle with criticism from time to time. Your tips are very helpful. 🙂

    • Hi Lisa, thank you for your comment. Criticism can be so destructive to children and they take it with them to adulthood. It takes time, practice and talent to give criticism in a respectful way that it can be received and be useful to the receiver. This is very tricky and hard.

  4. Pingback: Small Business News : Wednesday March 6, 2013 | smbizamerica

  5. Pingback: The Bitterness of Criticism | North Jersey Small Business Forum

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