How to Get Something Positive From Criticism

Being criticized is a part of life that everyone needs and no one likes. Criticism is essential to intellectual growth and self-improvement. If teachers refrained from commenting on your essays and tests, it would stunt improvement in the classroom.

Without parents applauding their children's good behavior and condemning misbehavior, many would have difficulty learning right from wrong. Still, whether you receive it from your boss, your spouse, or your best friend, criticism is rarely taken easily.

Let's face it: We all need, and like, to feel good about ourselves, and for most, criticism gets in the way of this. In some cases, being judged can force other insecurities to surface.

To combat what is deemed an assault on the ego, many become defensive. Arguing, raising your voice, and becoming angered are all signs of defensive behavior. The problem with this type of response is that it hinders self-reflection and self-improvement. Often, you may be too busy thinking of a response and not listening to the other party that the chances to correct any faults are diminished.

How to Take Criticism

1. Listen. Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said, "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."  The moment we're criticized is the moment arguments, rebuttals, and denials start swirling around in our brains. We do this and neglect listening to the other person's point of view.

Next time someone approaches you with any sort of criticism, fight the urge to fight back. Do not interrupt; instead wait until the other person has finished her point. Truly listen and digest what is being said rather than becoming argumentative.

2. Stay calm. While most of the people who will provide you with criticism are well meaning, some can come off as brash or even rude. Regardless of the other party's tone, stay calm, and relax. Keep your emotions at bay. If you let them get the better of you, all hope of having a productive conversation flies out the window.

3. Ask questions. No matter how well you listen or how neutral you try to remain, some aspects of the conversation may get lost in translation. If your critic is offering vague or nonspecific criticism, ask her to clarify her statements so that you can get a better grasp of what you need to address.

4. Own it. For some, a common defense is to place blame elsewhere—on someone or something else. However, by doing this, responsibility for any wrongdoing is not owned, thus any room for self-improvement is negated. If you assess yourself honestly, and take ownership of your mistakes, not only can you improve upon yourself, but you'll prove to your critic your willingness to do so.

5. Adapt and follow up. Now that you've accepted your critic's point of view, it's now time to take steps toward self-improvement. Take note of where you're repeating undesired actions and correct them. This may take time to perfect, so it's important to follow up with the critical party to see how you're doing.

Taking criticism isn't easy for the most self-reflective among us. By following these steps, however, you'll improve your ability to accept judgment as well as improve your sense of self.