talking

Because I put myself out there in public ways, I’m subjected to a LOT of criticism, both on the internet and in person.  Some of it is the kind of vicious, violent hating that cowards love to spout amidst the safety of being anonymous on the internet. Some of it is pure projection. People don’t like what they see of themselves in the mirror I hold up. Some of it is totally valid constructive criticism delivered in a respectful, helpful, balanced way.

No matter how criticism is delivered, the ego hates to be criticized. It likes to respond to criticism with defensiveness, anger, or self-flagellation. But if you’re able to receive criticism as your Inner Pilot Light, rather than as your ego, there are ways to let criticism help you. Whether the criticism appears from anonymous people on the internet or from people close to you, it’s possible to receive criticism in a healthy way and let the criticism allow you to grow and learn. Most of the criticism I receive on the internet I ignore because I don’t know the people who are criticizing me, so it’s hard to discern why they’re criticizing me or whether I can trust that they are safe people with my best intentions at heart. However, I invite the people I love to criticize me. It’s how I see my blind spots and grow into a better person.

Here are a few tips for how to receive criticism with grace.

1. Assess whether the person criticizing you leaves you feeling emotionally and physically safe.

If this is someone you trust, who you know has your best interests at heart, invite the criticism. If this is someone unsafe who does not have your best interests at heart, it’s okay to set boundaries around uninvited criticism. You don’t have to sit through a violent verbal attack. If you have a history with an unsafe person who wants to criticize you, it’s okay to ask that person to save the criticism for when you can have a mediator present, someone like a therapist. It’s also okay to refuse to listen if you’re not wanting to keep a relationship. But it very worth inviting criticism from the people who are really trying to help.

2. Listen generously to the person who is criticizing you.

When the ego is feeling defensive and hurt, it’s so easy to interrupt and start defending yourself before the person criticizing you even gets a chance to finish what is being said. Resist the urge to jump in and cut off the person criticizing you. Place your full attention on the person speaking and wait until they’ve finished speaking to respond.

3. Be humble.

Avoid the tendency to make someone wrong just because they’re criticizing you. No matter how awesome you are, chances are, there’s room for improvement. Be willing to be wrong.

4. Find a way to make the person criticizing you right, even if you disagree with what is being said.

Acknowledge what is being said. Recognize the courage it took for your criticizer to speak up. That doesn’t mean you have to own what is being said, but it does mean you create safety for the criticizer by offering reassurance that it’s safe to criticize you without threatening the relationship. Thank the person who criticized you. Assuming what was said was expressed with your best interests in mind, be grateful that you’re in a relationship with someone who wants to help you live a happier, healthier, more productive, more aligned life. It’s not easy to grow and evolve out of our unconscious habitual patterns. We can only do it with the support of those who are committed to helping lift us up.

5. Filter the criticism through the lens of your truth.

Don’t automatically believe all criticism, but don’t automatically reject it all either. When you believe all criticism, you’ll get so traumatized that you’ll stop putting yourself out there, and if you reject all criticism without looking for the truth in it, you’ll turn into a diva. Consider the criticism and examine it to see if it feels true when you assess it not with your ego, but with your Inner Pilot Light. Discerning what rings true for you and what doesn’t is essential.

6. Check for projections.

Sometimes people criticize you when they’re really criticizing themselves, projecting onto you what they don’t like about themselves. These kinds of criticisms aren’t clean. For example, if you’re thinking about taking a risk, like quitting a job you’re unhappy in, someone who is too scared to quit their own unhappy job might criticize you for being irresponsible, when really, it’s not about you. It’s about them.

7. Throw out what isn’t true.

If someone is just pummeling you with mean-spirited criticism or if you deem the criticism pure projection, shake it off. Dance it off even! Don’t let it poison your body, mind, or soul. If the criticism doesn’t feel true, assess whether it’s safe to say so.  If it’s your boss or your client criticizing you, you may have to just nod and suck it up. But if it’s someone you’re close to and the criticism doesn’t feel accurate, voice your honest thoughts gently and without defensiveness.

8. Own what you discern to be true.

If your criticizer is right, say so. It’s incredibly validating to the person going out on a limb to criticize you to feel heard and acknowledged if you deem it to be true.

9. Don’t beat yourself up.

If your criticizer is right, acknowledge the truth of how you could improve, but don’t beat yourself up. Avoid using the criticism as an excuse to shame yourself.

10. Soothe yourself.

Your ego may feel bruised after the critique. Do what you can to comfort yourself with something pleasurable. Get a foot massage. Take a long bath. Read a good book or watch a funny movie. Call a close friend and have a good cry. Soak in a hot tub. Give yourself a hug and honor yourself for being such a good sport in the midst of criticism. Only when we’re humbly open to criticism can we grow into the best versions of ourselves.

Can You Participate In Healthy Conflict?

When we learn to give and receive criticism in healthy ways, we participate in the kind of healthy conflict that is essential not only to good relationships, but to world peace. As Martin Prechtel said, “War is the absence of healthy conflict.”

Are you able to give and receive criticism in a healthy, ego-less way? Or do you avoid conflict at all costs and defend against criticism when it arises? Are you willing to be wrong? Will you speak your truth when you feel someone else has wronged you?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Learning to receive criticism with grace,

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17 Comments

  1. pediNP

    Perfect timing for this post. I got thrown under the bus this week about a patient complaint. While I owned my part in it, the criticism that was leveled at me was out of proportion to the incident. With the huge focus on patient satisfaction, any and all complaints are taken very seriously; sometimes discounting the provider’s perspective. I have a pretty thin skin, too, and really was upset about it.

    I think I need to print out this post and keep it in my lab coat pocket.

    Reply
  2. Deb Palmer

    Thanks …

    I like 7 and 8–toss out and discern what to keep. Need this right now as a newbie author facing the inevitable rejections.

    Reply
  3. Carol Gordon

    This has been so useful to me today. As an newly qualified EFT Practitioner I am trying to get the message out there and to build the confidence to tell people about this wonderful technique. But when you have never heard of it and have a closed mind, it is very difficult to accept that it works and so people have a tendency to attack. I am trying not to take it personally and these tips will definately help. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. Michelle

    If I hadn’t just gone through a guided meditation in the minutes before I read this, I probably wouldn’t have commented…but my aha just now was that the amount of pain/discomfort I feel from criticism, worry or concerns that stop me from moving forward freely…is determined by the amount I don’t yet accept/approve of myself in any particular area. So, while setting up rules and arranging the outside world just so–to feel safer–might be a stop-gap measure, going inside is where power and safety really lies.

    Reply
  5. Laura G. Jones

    I love this, Lissa! I do think a really big part of it is also recognizing whether that criticism comes from the critic’s own pain. In the past I’ve had people criticize me ruthlessly many times only to later admit that they just wanted the same things I had already achieved. Pain can make people lash out to those they admire. I find compassion is always the most appropriate response to criticism – it invites attention, care, and responsibility.

    Reply
  6. Derek Stephen McPhail

    your excellent post, reminds me of my father’s advice about being a “spiritual warrior”. the essence of oriental martial arts is to protect one’s inner serenity by defining one’s territory as clearly as possible; and, deflecting the negativity of those who don’t respect one’s space. you are a great inspiration and definitely a “spiritual warrior”. all the best with your activities in the year of the horse.

    Reply
    • McNamara

      “spiritual warrior” A wonderful concept to teach our children

      Reply
  7. Katherine Bianchi Van Slyke

    Just yesterday I was blogging about our inner critic and how, since we likely won’t be able to silence it, it would behoove us to work WITH it and quiet it down. Many of the suggestions in your post speak to great ways to handle the inner critic as well as our external critics. I will contemplate where the Ego fits in to the picture when considering our various “selves”. Perhaps you can speak to that. Thanks for the post.

    Reply
  8. Ron Weinberger

    If you focus on staying more in the present moment (which among other things means you’re in your conscious mind) it’s much easier to logically respond to events and situations.

    Unfortunately, more than 90% of the time you’re not in the present moment or your conscious mind and are instead in your subconscious’s autopilot mode, where you emotionally and seemingly uncontrollably react in pre-programmed, outdated and self-defeating ways.

    Reply
  9. marsha

    This is an important topic for sure. And although these are fine ideas in theory, it wasn’t till I reached on for help that i was able to wake up enough to the reality of what was going on in the moment of being “criticized” and truly assess it.. Was i being criticized, was i being empowered, was this person just trying to control me? I believe to make changes of this nature, it is important to know what you are dealing with and that requires a long look in the mirror. And in my case a really good coach.

    Reply
  10. Warwick Begg

    Dear Lissa, as usual you speak with a ringing conviction and uberclear common sense that can only come from “having been there.” And as you say, your ever increasing clarion-calling profile is attracting primitive enmity – hopefully a tiny if painful element in comparison with the welcoming and embracing one. I simply want to say that for all of us who hear you clearly, you are obviously a beautiful, supremely honest, and eloquent soul. Love your work, and you. Hug – Warwick.

    Reply
  11. Elizabeth Scala

    Thank you, Lissa. I just received some criticism on a course I did- one I have actually done several times now and all of the previous participants enjoyed. I am going to take your words and look at the criticism in a new light. I might even reach out to understand more of what was written. Maybe it wasn’t criticism at all and just needs more understanding. Great post for all of us putting ourselves out there! (Something scary, but so necessary if our light is to shine)

    Reply
  12. LundieP

    This post is going in my flagged-for-reference file! It was a hard read, as I have not done well historically with criticism. I tend to take all criticism as truth, and then reject it all (or hide from it) because it’s too painful. I’m trying to learn to take bits and pieces now, and hold them up to see if they fit or not – and if they don’t – throw them out!

    I appreciate you putting yourself out there to do what you’re meant to do. You have inspired me to look into doing the same. Namaste.

    Reply
  13. daisy

    thank you for this very wise advice
    there are so many ways that we can experience criticism, but overall when the criticism touches us, when we feel inconvenient and we find it unjustified, that is an indicator for us to look deeper into the matter
    there is always something that makes us feel guilty, sometimes hidden from our eyes, that resonates and that has the chance to be uncovered
    it is not easy to criticise in a gentle way and it is not easy to receive the criticism, however even only one conscious side of the communication (either critic or the criticised person) is able to convert the process into so much enriching experience
    let’s be this one conscious side

    Reply
  14. OnlinePhDUK

    great list with all key and important points….thanks for sharing!!!

    Reply
  15. Tammy L Warren

    My son and his girlfriend, 25, were just home for a visit. While here, she spent an evening talking about all the things that were wrong with my son and basically blamed me for all of them. “Well, that’s because he was home schooled. That’s because he didn’t have any friends,” etc. I took a breath, got a drink of water, and thought about each accusation she made. I then cooly began to, one by one, debunk each and every criticism she had and replaced it with the truth, my son sitting right there listening. I was a little unnerved inside but kept my cool and felt better and confident for having done so. The truth will set you free, even from criticism. Thanks. One of your biggest fans.

    Reply
  16. Eileen Howitt

    Thank you, Lissa for your service to humanity. I can relate to and have experience much of the same situations that you have been through. As for myself, I am too old to worry about what people think or say about me. I generally do not open myself up for others opinions, criticism or advise. I have all the answers within my being.

    Reply

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