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How To Handle Criticism

Sometimes I think it would be nice to wander around with a cheer squad all around me; supporting me and encouraging me at every moment. I can just hear them now chanting, “You got this girl” and “You are a Rock Star”. I imagine it would be so cool. Maybe they would even play music to keep me upbeat and inspired. Oh but if only it worked that way. The reality, however, is that when you are in a leadership role you can bet your bottom dollar that you will receive criticism. It’s human nature really to focus on those of us out there at the front of the race crushing it. Being a contender means you will get feedback and not all of it will be from your cheering squad. So if you want to be a successful leader you have to get used to criticism AND find a way to use that criticism for growth. John Maxwell addresses this topic in his book “Leadership Gold” in the chapter aptly named “When you get kicked in the rear, you know you’re out in front". That title brings up such funny images for me and while I might giggle it is a true statement. The trick is figuring out how to handle the criticism the right way. Now it’s important to note that not everyone handles criticism the same way. Some of us try and ignore it. Some defend against it. But we can only change for the better when we are open to improvement. John breaks it down this way. Maintaining the right attitude means:

  • Not being defensive

  • Looking for the grain of truth

  • Making the necessary changes

  • Taking the high road

Now, these four points are sometimes easier said than done. Especially depending on how the criticism is given. While I always try to remain open to the feedback and look for the grain of truth in the information there are times when the feedback/criticism is not being given for any reason other than to try and cause problems. This doesn’t mean that the feedback doesn’t have some level of value, but it certainly does impact how I emotionally respond to the feedback. Here are the questions I ask to determine what kind of criticism it is:

  • Who criticized me? Is this someone who has my best interest at heart or someone who simply loves to look for the negative and yell it from the rooftops.

  • How was the criticism given? I try to discern whether the person was being judgmental or whether she gave me the benefit of the doubt and spoke with kindness.

  • Why was it given? Was it given out of personal hurt or for my benefit? Hurting people hurt people; and they lash out in an attempt to make themselves feel better, not to help the other person.

So while I look for the grain of truth in all criticism I work hard to ensure that regardless of how I answer the above question I stay positive and focus on the ways I can grow. The next time you are kicked in the rear because you are out in front, just remember you must be doing something right if people are criticizing you!

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