How To Handle Criticism

by | Oct 11, 2019 | Article

No one enjoys criticism; however, it can be positive. To benefit from criticism, look at it as constructive feedback.

Basic Ground Rules to Handle Criticism:


Don’t immediately reject their words.

  • Thank the person for talking directly to you.
  • Reassure the person that you know you are not perfect.
  • Tell them you will consider their feedback/criticism.
  • Thank them again.
  • Don’t get defensive.

Don’t be discouraged.

  • Easier said than done, right? Be careful about discouragement; it is contagious.
  • Allow disappointment, even in yourself, but make sure it does not grow into discouragement.

Don’t be demoralized by the criticism.

  • Don’t be tempted to take an unethical or unprincipled course of action (this may happen if you become demoralized).
  • Learn from it and move on.

Don’t be ruled by it.

  • Sometimes leaders are tempted to yield to criticism and alter plans or policies for the sake of peace and quiet.
  • Don’t let your desire to be a “people pleaser” trump what is right.

*I have found over the years, organizations come up with rules or policies out of a reaction to a criticism. This is not good leadership!

Don’t personalize it.

This is probably the most important don’t of all and the hardest to abide by. There are two ways this can happen:

  • You take criticism of product, program, policies, or plans as personal criticism and therefore an attack on your integrity, character, or capability.
  • You can react personally against the critic and reject the person as well as the person’s views or opinions.


Seek to discover the reason behind the criticism.  Many times a critical word or tone does not represent the problem but is only a symptom of the real issue.

Additional Thoughts:

Use the 2% Rule
If someone criticizes you, you do not have to agree. However, let me challenge you to find the 2% that could be true and work on making corrections. Let go of the other 98%!

Don’t Get Defensive
Yes, it hurts—but you need to grow up! Criticism, in particular for leaders is in the job description. Resist being defensive and listen; hear what the person is saying.

If the criticism is legitimate, be sincerely sorry. Apologize and ask for forgiveness. Reassure the person that you will work hard not to let the mistake happen again.

Don’t Be a “Low Life”
You know who you are; a person who is critical of others behind their backs. When you choose to stab a friend in the back, your motive is to hurt the other person, period. The goal should always be reconciliation, not retaliation.

There is nothing unnatural about criticism, but there are right and wrong ways to carry it out. Make sure you give and receive criticism the right way!


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