Handling criticism – vital lessons for maturity

I’m aiming this message at teenagers in general, but I know adults who could do with learning these lessons! It’s so important to know how to handle criticism if we are to learn and not simply react negatively from our embarrassment. Of course criticism can be both fair and unfair, so I hope these points will help you to decide whether you have previusly handled criticism well or badly, and how you might better deal with it in the future. My reason for sharing this is because, for me, learning is paramount, so if I’m wrong, it’s more useful to know than to be pandered to for the sake of not being upset by someone. If we get to the point where out egos stop others from criticising us, then we’ve lost the chance to learn. That would be a real shame.

  1. You receive a rebuke from someone, they’ve told you off and they’ve corrected you. Perhaps you slammed the door deliberately, or maybe you were just being careless.
  2. The first thing to do is accept that they are upset. Whether they are right or wrong about what they are complaining about, they are upset – accept that. Yelling back will only escalate things, so think for a second before you respond.
  3. Was the person right? Was their complaint justified? Sometimes it’s not instantly clear because no-one ever complained before, right? Well maybe, but try putting yourself in their shoes – did it look like you did it deliberately? If you did, you know. What’s the quickest way to stop the situation? Apologise and remember to not do it again – it’ll be annoying people who aren’t ever going to complain (particularly if you live in England!).
  4. If you were just careless, maybe you can explain you didn’t mean to upset them. That’s not accepting guilt, just saying you didn’t mean to upset them, and you can always try to avoid being careless with the door in future.
  5. ‘Hey, but what if you think they’re just being a nit-picker and you really didn’t do anything wrong?’ Just accept they might be having a bad day – yelling at them won’t change that.
  6. ‘But I am going to keep slamming the door until they stop complaining – that’ll show ’em!’ Then you are now being a bully – there’s no two ways about it. You haven’t learned anything, and you’re now perpetrating harassment against them! Stop, and go back to step 3 – put yourself in their shoes. Are you going to get less upset over time with someone who deliberately sets out to annoy you? No. You’re going to feel threatened and upset. Don’t become a bully.
  7. Be gracious – how many times do you get grouchy for no reason? How many times do you mess up and upset someone else? We’re all human and trying to do our best.
  8. If the person complaining chose to be deliberately rude in their complaint, perhaps making personal comments about you at the same time, you should accept their complaint (if it has merit) and chide their rudeness alone. Something like this: ‘Yes, I’m sorry I was so careless with the door, I didn’t mean to upset you – did you mean to be so personally rude to me?’

As you can see these things can be de-escalated easily, and this contributes to a more civil society. I was so glad the day I realised how much easier it was to simply admit I was wrong – a wrong position is not a defensible one!

Where this doesn’t apply, however, is in the realm of intellectual debate. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied by mainstream science lackeys for example – but rely on evidence to support your argument. There’s no point in attacking the person, only their ideas. Weigh evidence between you, and hopefully you’ll both learn. If ego gets in the way you’ll both just stop listening!

I hope this is helpful! Leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Best wishes

Lis Goodwin, your voice coach


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