Nobody really likes criticism. They just pretend that they are okay with it. Whether you are an average citizen or a big name, being criticized is difficult to deal with. There are many high-powered celebrities who avoid reading bad reviews, just to avoid reading the criticism. Unfortunately, if your boss, customer, or loved one is doing the criticizing, you will have to deal with hearing it.

Here’s the thing about criticism, though – it is painful to hear, but it is hard to grow and improve as a human being if you refuse to listen to it. For example, if you are a budding chef, but the dish you consider to be your specialty tastes like garbage, wouldn’t you want to know that? If you are trying to move up the corporate ladder, but your grammar is poor, not hearing your flaws could potentially cost you a chance at a promotion. If you never listen to criticism, and you just stick your fingers in your ears, such limiting behavior could hold you back personally and professionally.

Of course, some criticism you might need to ignore. It is possible that you have frenemies –whether at work or in your personal life — who are trying to hold you back. All that trying to please them will do is frustrate you. And if you run a business where you have to deal with customer criticism, some criticism may be valid, while other complaints may simply be an excuse to get free merchandise.

So what should you do when you hear criticism? Here are a few tips:

  • Listen, and don’t react right away: You may feel the need to get defensive, and rightfully so, if the criticism is wrong. But starting an argument isn’t productive. Instead, why not let the other person speak, and take a deep breath before responding. If you don’t feel up to saying something at the moment, it is okay to say that you would like to think about what the person said first. Or you can just say something like “Thank you for your comments,” and not react specifically at all. Of course, if it is your supervisor criticizing you, you will need to respond.
  • Consider the source: Is the person complaining about you super-critical of others? Does the critic have your best interests at heart? Those are the type of questions you should be asking. Again, though, if it’s your supervisor doing the criticizing, you have to take his or her comments into consideration. And if it is a customer, you ought to pay attention as well.
  • If the criticism is vague, ask follow-up questions: For example, if it is your boss telling you he did not like your work on a project, and does not explain what he didn’t like, you may want to try to get your boss to be more specific about what issues he had. As painful a process it may be, it will be less painful than having to redo the project over and over without knowing what your manager did not like in your work.
  • Ask yourself, does this person have a point? It is so difficult to look objectively upon yourself, especially when hearing what can be harsh criticism. But sometimes, such criticism is really constructive. You may need to do a little soul-searching. If you have heard such complaints before from others, it is possible that the criticism is something you need to work on. And the positive thing is that you may become a better employee/friend/spouse or even person by changing. As a matter of fact, if it is a supervisor doing the criticism, you do need to acknowledge his or her point, or find yourself on the unemployment line.

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