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Handling Criticism: 6 Options to Get Through It

Handling Criticism: 6 Options to Get Through It

criticism

    Everyone’s a critic, right? Everyone has an opinion, everyone’s willing to tell you what you’re doing wrong, everyone’s ready to tell you how to lead your life. To be completely honest, most of us don’t want to hear it. Whether it’s coming from Dad or the boss, we’re pretty much content to just zone out and hope that we can say, “Whatever you say,” at the right point. Even when someone’s offering up constructive criticism, it can be hard to take.

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    Taking criticism is a skill — and being able to learn from harsh criticism requires a pretty extreme level of proficiency. There are a few ways to build up your tolerance for criticism, though, and to move closer to that level, even if you can’t convince your critics to make the switch to a more constructive approach.

    1. Ask for criticism in writing

    Listening to someone go on and on about what you aren’t getting right is extremely difficult. After even just a few minutes it can take the patience of a saint to refrain from telling a critic exactly where they can put their comments. But if you can ask a critic to write down his or her comments, it’s worth the effort. You’ll have a little more distance when you go over the criticism in question (and if you decide that you aren’t going to actually read those notes, you have a little more leeway to do so). You might also find that more than a few critics will decide against the effort required to write out their thoughts.

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    2. Resolve valid criticism

    Harsh criticism isn’t exactly a great way to motivate change, but in some cases the criticism does come about from a valid issue. If you find yourself on the receiving end of some unfriendly opinions, it’s worth finding out if such a concern is actually valid. Ask someone external to the situation for an opinion, run some numbers — whatever it takes to make a decision one way or the other. If you come to the conclusion that it isn’t valid, ignore the remarks and go do something happy. If it is valid, you may need to consider addressing it.

    3. Get concrete details

    One of the most frustrating types of criticism is the variety where you don’t actually get any information on what you’re supposed to change. More than a few disapproving authority figures will launch into a litany of the many things they think you’re doing wrong. If you can get them to switch to more constructive criticism, you can cut a critical conversation short with something along the lines of, “If I do this, you’ll be be happy?” Actually doing it, of course, remains up to you.

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    4. Head your critics off at the pass

    There are some people who’s function in life seems to offer criticism, deserved or not. Of the top of your head, you can probably think of a handful of such individuals that you have to deal with. For many such critics, though, you can often redirect them to other conversations: ask them about their own projects, their families or whatever they’re interested in. You’ll probably still get an earful or two, but if you can head off their criticism and bring the conversation around to something more comfortable, it will be easier to handle the remaining criticism.

    5. Recognize that some people really don’t have anything better to do

    Constructive criticism is one thing, but some people spend most of their day making harsh evaluations that aren’t exactly helpful to the recipient. It’s a fact of life, and the only way to deal with such people is generally to ignore them or deal with them. Depending on how important they are to you — ignoring a parent is rarely practical — your best option may be to just do what you can to make them happy and just wait until they leave the room to do your own things. It’s not the best of situations, but it’s an option that many people have used.

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    6. Keep your emotions out of it

    It’s easier said than done, but responding defensively or getting emotional during a critical discussion just draws it out longer. If you’re not defensive of your behavior (whether you’re right or wrong), most critics will take that as a sign that you’re at least considering their comments — making them at least a little happier about the situation. If you can manage this sort of approach, you’ll at least get out of the discussion that much faster.

    Criticism is complex: on the one hand, we want to please our supervisors, our family, our friends — all those people in a position to offer criticism. But at the same time, it’s rare that we can resolve every complaint or will want to. That means that handling critiques, rather than necessarily responding to them, is an important skill for most of us to get by.

    But criticism also an issue of personality. Some people are just better equipped emotionally, to listen to an evaluation of their performance. That means that different methods of handling criticism (or outright avoiding it) are necessary, especially when avoiding the emotional aspects of criticism just doesn’t seem possible. These approaches are just a few that I’ve used or seen over the years. If you’ve had luck with a different approach, tell us about it in the comments.

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    Last Updated on October 15, 2019

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

    Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

    There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

    Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

    Why we procrastinate after all

    We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

    Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

    Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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    To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

    If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

    So, is procrastination bad?

    Yes it is.

    Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

    Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

    Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

    It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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    The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

    Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

    For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

    A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

    Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

    Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

    How bad procrastination can be

    Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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    After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

    One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

    That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

    Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

    In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

    You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

    More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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    8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

    Procrastination, a technical failure

    Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

    It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

    It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

    Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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