Nobody likes being criticised but, unfortunately it is a fact of life. To be able to respond to criticism with nobility and detachment is an important life skill, which few people have. If we respond to criticism without careful consideration, it can easily lead to unnecessary suffering.
1. What Can I Learn from Criticism?
Most criticism is probably based, at least in part, on some truths. Criticism may appear negative. But, through criticism we have the opportunity to learn and improve from their suggestions.
2. Respond to the suggestions not the tone of the criticism.
The problem is that people may make valuable critical suggestions. However, there tone and style of criticism means that we respond not to the suggestions but remember there confrontational manner. In this respect we need to separate the criticism from the style of criticism. Even if people speak in a tone of anger, we should try to detach their emotion from the useful suggestions which lie underneath.
3. Value criticism.
The problems is that quite often, we only value praise. When people speak kind words we feel happy. When people criticise we feel miserable. However, if we only received insincere praise and false flattery, how would we ever make progress? If we wish to improve and develop we should invite constructive criticism and appreciate their suggestions.
4. Don’t take it personally.
This is often the biggest problem which occurs with regard to criticism. If I criticise my Mother’s cooking, she feels personally offended. But, it is a mistake to identify ourselves with an apple pie. Somebody may find good reasons why our cooking is bad; but, this does not mean they are criticising ourselves. When people criticise us directly, we should feel they are not criticising our real self; but, just an unillumined aspect of ourselves. When we criticise others, we are perhaps criticising their pride or jealousy; but, the jealousy is a mere passing emotion, it is not the real person.
5. Ignore False Criticism.
Sometimes we are criticised with no justification. This is a painful experience. But, potentially we can deal with it more easily than criticism which is justified. One option is to remain aloof and ignore it completely. We should feel that false criticism is as insignificant as an ant trying to harm an elephant. If we remain silent and detached the criticism is given no energy. If we feel the necessity of fighting it – in a way, we give it more importance than it deserves. By remaining silent we maintain a dignity that others will come to respect.
6. Don’t Respond Immediately
It is best to wait a little before responding. If we respond with feelings of anger or injured pride we will soon regret it. If we wait patiently it can enable us to reflect in a calmer way.
Smiling, even a false smile, can helps us to relax more. It creates a more positive vibration and smoothes the situation. It will definitely help psychologically. Smiling will motivate the other person to moderate their approach.
Tejvan Pettinger works as a teacher in Oxford. In his spare time he enjoys writing on topics of self-improvement, meditation and productivity. He writes a blog on meditation and self improvement called Sri Chinmoy Inspiration. He also gives Meditation Classes on behalf of the Oxford Sri Chinmoy Centre. Photo by Tejvan Pettinger.