Unfortunately, it’s a part of life. You will get criticized!
Learning to handle criticism has been a difficult journey for me. At times I have handled it well on the surface, while underneath it eroded a truck load of self-doubt. At times I became paralyzed, not knowing what to say in the face of criticism. Other times I became defensive.
Let’s face it, none of us like to be criticized and there will always be critics. In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie wrote, “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” No kidding! There seem to be plenty of people willing to criticize.
Jesus Himself was well-acquainted with critics:
- The disciples criticized Him. In Mark 1 the disciples were a little miffed with Jesus for taking time for prayer (Mark 1:36).
- The religious leaders continually criticized Him. He was criticized for hanging out with sinners (Matthew 9:11). He was slammed for breaking the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-14). He was accused of being demon-possessed (John 8:48). He was almost stoned when He was accused of making false claims (John 8:58-59).
Knowing that criticism isn’t going to go away any time soon, how do you handle it? Here are a few ideas:
- Allow the other person to completely dump without responding or interrupting. This is very difficult to do, but it pays off in the long run. Jesus knew when to pause and when to push. In the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8), Jesus remained silent for quiet a while. Pause. Breathe. Don’t speak until you’re sure you have the self-control to speak rationally.
- Say “Thank You.” When you’re ready to speak, say, “Thank you for sharing your feelings with me.” Oh, this is hard to do – but again it pays off. Then ask for some time to think about what the person has criticized you for and commit to getting back to them. If you engage in the moment, you’re more likely to engage on an emotional level.
- Consider the Source. When you’re alone, reflect and consider the source. Is this a person you respect? Is it someone who knows you well? Is it someone who has a reputation for being critical often?
- Look for Truth. After you’ve considered the source, if it is someone you respect, look for truth in what the person is saying. Find a point of agreement. It can also be helpful to check the truth with someone close to you. For example, one time I was criticized by someone who heard me on the radio for being theologically incorrect. The lady who wrote me was pretty angry, and I was pretty upset. I had not been criticized for that before. In my search for truth I asked my husband, who has a seminary degree, if I was off. Steve was so helpful in guiding me to what the Greek in the passage actually said, and it turns out I was not off theologically. Another time, I was criticized for being defensive. Again, I went to Steve, and asked him if he saw me as being defensive. He said that at times I was, so I knew I needed to confess that to the Lord, ask for forgiveness, and ask forgiveness of the person who told me I was being defensive.
- Apologize for what’s true. An apology goes a long way. If you discover truth in the person’s criticism, apologize. When you apologize, take responsibility for your actions. Vague apologies really are not apologies. For example, don’t say, “If I came across as defensive, I’m sorry.” Instead say, “I’m sorry I came across as defensive.” But, also be careful of over-apologizing. This is something I have had to work on. I’ve become so accustomed to apologizing that sometimes I take too much responsibility. Several people close to me have confronted me on this. So now, I pause and think before I apologize.
There’s so much more I could write on this topic, and more of this is covered in my new book coming out August 1 – How to Listen So People Will Talk. You can actually pre-order the book now on Amazon. If you hold on to your receipt there will be a free gift available starting July 1 for those who pre-order the book. Here’s the Link: https://www.amazon.com/Listen-People-Will-Talk-Communication/dp/0764219448/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1495889465&sr=8-2&keywords=How+to+Listen+So+People+Will+Talk