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Dealing with Non-Constructive Criticism

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Dealing with Non-Constructive Criticism

The human ego is at once both an incredibly powerful and terribly fragile beast.

With a swift boost, it can will us over seemingly insurmountable obstacles that we would have otherwise struggled with. Yet with an equally as swift kick to the temple, it can drag us down into feelings of despair and self-pity, preventing us from achieving what’s important to us.

That’s why it’s important to keep a regular check on our ego, especially when it comes to unjust shcriticism.

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Haven’t we all heard the tales of people criticized by friends, peers and maybe even overbearing parents to such an extent that they grew up believing themselves to be as worthless, weak or stupid as those around them had said they were.

If we hope to achieve anything in life, we must prevent criticism from holding us back to the point that even though we may see the opportunities that lay ahead, we don’t believe ourselves to be good enough, or strong enough, or smart enough to pursue them.

Dealing with Non-Constructive Criticism

We’re not talking about utilizing constructive criticism, and using feedback to further improve a piece of work or, in some cases, a piece of ourselves.

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Though some people don’t even handle that very well, what we’re really talking about here is the unfair, unjust, often harsh criticism that often takes the form of a personal attack. Though such attacks can be hurtful or otherwise detrimental, it is possible to handle them with the kind of care, which ensures that not only does our ego survive unharmed; our self-esteem can actually be bolstered by harsh words. All it takes it to look at these attacks with a different perspective and ask ourselves a couple of questions.

  • Is this really an attack, or are we taking constructive criticism too personally?

Let’s face it; there are a lot of people out there who just aren’t the world’s greatest communicators. They probably meant to give us some helpful advice or feedback from which we could actually use, but they went about it an altogether unhelpful fashion.

Or maybe they did mean to attack or insult us, and yet somewhere in their words, we can find a glimmer of truth. Give some thought to the underlying message of the ‘attack’ and see if you can’t glean something positive from it.

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  • If it is constructive criticism, what can we gain from it?

Is there something we can learn? Something we can utilize to improve a project or a personal attribute?

  • If it’s merely an outright attack, why?

‘They’re just jealous’ often seems like a childish response to criticism, but half the time it’s actually a reasonable response. It isn’t uncommon for people to feel threatened by another’s success or happiness. Nor is it particularly unreasonable to suggest that some folks feel a certain resentment towards others because they struggle to understand a person’s motives or ambitions. Their view of the world struggles to comprehend that of another individual and they feel like they need to attack or demean that person until he or she comes around to their way of thinking. This is entirely unhealthy of course, but it happens.

You could try talking to your aggressor, not necessarily to win them over to your way of thinking, but at least to help them understand that your success, happiness, or way of life detracts nothing from theirs. They are free to do whatever makes them happy just as you are.

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If that fails, it may simply be necessary to strengthen your resolve. You know in your heart and in the pit of your gut that what you’re doing is the right thing for you. Providing the only way you’re hurting this other person is in a manner made up entirely in their own mind, you can carry on safe in the knowledge that your ego and self-esteem remain balanced.

With that, you can safely overcome those insurmountable obstacles and seize those all-important opportunities remaining confident that you are indeed good enough as you are, yet always remaining willing to improve at the behest of fair, constructive criticism.

Featured photo credit:  Closeup of many fingers pointing at man via Shutterstock

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More by this author

Chris Skoyles

Coach, and trainee counsellor specializing in mental health and addiction.

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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