It is deeply ingrained in human nature to look at the actions, words, and lifestyles of others and often judge them for it, or to find yourself the subject of other people’s judgment. In some cases, the reproach may be deserved and should be accepted with candor. In most cases, it is likely undeserved, and the best thing to do is consider a healthy way to respond.
See that the problem is usually with them not with you
A famous and insightful quote from Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People goes like this, “Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn — and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”
Few truer words were ever spoken. A great deal of criticism is, unfortunately, false and given without justification. In this instance, the best thing to do is not take it personally. Consider the source and realize it is more of a reflection of their character, not yours.
Look at the end result not the obstacle to overcome
“Don’t look at the wall. Your car goes where your eyes go,” said famous race car driver Mario Andretti.
Criticism can be a wall of negativity that if focused on will stop you in your tracks. Take what is said with a grain of salt. Is there a seed of truth to what was said, or does it seem to be purely malicious in nature?
Pouring too much attention on a hurtful criticism will perpetuate a cycle of negativity. It will hurt you again and again. Realize that the criticism is a “wall” and remove it from your sight. Instead, focus on where you want to go.
If the criticism is related to work, but clearly not based in any truth, forge ahead with your goals. Let it be the impetus that propels you forward towards your desires. Focus on the steps to accomplish what you want and let the critics worry about focusing on their negative words.
Consider that sometimes we are a bit biased against our faults
Another famous quote, this time by Winston Churchill states, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop.”
Sometimes the criticism is valuable because it can draw our attention to behaviors or thinking that need change. People cannot grow and improve without recognizing things that need improvement.
If the criticism hits a note of truth, don’t dwell on feeling bad about it. Instead, focus on the changes you can make to improve your life and how you interact with others.
If you must respond, do so with grace
Gary Vaynerchuk, the author of Crush It provides a perfect example of responding to negativity with grace. He felt the need to respond when he received a negative comment about his book by a reader named Frank, “How did this book ever get published?”
His gracious and fitting reply was, “Frank, I am so so sorry I under-delivered for you, I hope to meet you and spend 15 minutes apologizing and answering any questions you may have, I guess I needed more details in there for you, I am so sorry.”
Gary actually did get a phone number for Frank, and they spoke for a bit. Shortly after that, Frank made an additional comment, “If Amazon had a people ranking system, I’d have to give Gary 5 stars. One cannot help being impressed by someone who gets back to you so quickly and handles criticism so graciously.”
So while you may want to snap at your critic with something snarky or witty, try to reply with grace. If you act and speak with dignity, you will not find yourself filled with regret later and start criticizing yourself. Remember the adage, “Kill them with kindness.”
Kristy is a freelance writer with more than twenty years of print and digital media writing experience. She specializes in health and wellness, alternative healing methods, news, the environment, and lifestyles. She currently resides in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with her family and pets.