How to Handle Criticism

By | May 22, 2007
Screaming

How well do you handle criticism? I’ve been dealt a lot of criticism ranging from harsh feedback to feeling completely insulted. Although the saying goes, “Stick and stones can break by bones, but words can never hurt me,” a harsh piece of feedback can definitely leave you with a bruised ego.

Despite the sting, I’ve found criticism can often be useful. Feedback can help you fix mistakes and improve. I believe criticism can often show you what your own blind spots are, pointing you out to problems before they arise. I’ve found my ability to use sometimes harsh feedback, has given me an advantage in my own self-improvement.

Brace for Impact – Managing Criticism is More Than a Platitude

If negative feedback can be useful, why does it make you feel lousy in the first place?

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I don’t have a scientific answer for this, but I believe a lot of it has to do with our ancestors. Living in small groups of about a hundred people, becoming a social outcast could be a death sentence. So humans became sensitive to any threats on their status or social standing. Bullying still happens, but in today’s world, where you may be in a group of thousands, it is far easier to use feedback instead of automatically assuming it is a personal attack.

My point is that criticism will always feel lousy, and saying some inspirational quote probably won’t change this much. But just because it can feel bad, doesn’t mean you can’t use it.

Distinguish Between Feedback and Insults

You can’t use feedback if you can’t first distinguish it from insults. Sometimes the line that separates feedback from insults can be blurry, but I’ve found most people draw the line so that many pieces of useful feedback are labeled as insults.

Just because feedback is harsh, doesn’t mean it is an insult. An insult is a tactic of the other person to manipulate or bully you and doesn’t have anything to do with you. You have to handle insults differently than feedback, but the first step is to know where to draw the line.

You can’t be perfect in distinguishing between the two, but I’ve found it useful to ask what the intention was. Are they trying to help or communicating how they feel about you or your actions? Even if it was harsh that is probably just feedback. If it was only an attempt to manipulate you or others than it might be an insult.

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How to Use Feedback

Once you’ve gotten over the initial sting of some harsh criticism, you need to ask yourself how you are going to use it. I’ve found that there are generally three options: learn, ignore or assert.

1) Learn

Was the feedback genuine and useful? If it is true, you can try to learn from it. I don’t choose whether to use feedback based on how harsh it was. The most negative feedback can often open you up to complete blind spots.

When I first started writing I had a few pieces of criticism that stung. But I decided to turn it into advice, and it helped me overcome a lot of my blind spots. Taking negative feedback and making a mental note of it to improve later can turn a harsh blow into a useful aid later on.

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2) Ignore

Sometimes the feedback is genuine, but it isn’t useful. I’ve received a lot of advice in the form of criticism that may have been valid but I chose to ignore. Before I started my own personal development website over a year ago, I was told by some people that I shouldn’t do it. I considered that advice, but chose to ignore it.

Ignoring doesn’t mean you become defensive or hostile towards the other person. Sometimes all it requires is informing them that you simply believe they are wrong. If you become hostile towards someone who is trying to offer feedback, you can often stop them from giving you useful feedback later.

3) Assert

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If you’ve decided you can’t learn from a piece of feedback, sometimes you need to assert yourself. If you are being manipulated or bullied by the other person, you need to stand your ground.

This is why it becomes important to draw the line between feedback and insults. Reacting defensively to feedback usually only serves to make you look insecure or can make the situation worse by damaging your relationship. But if the person is using criticism as an attempt to bully or manipulate, calmly asserting yourself can handle the situation.

Usually I find it is a matter of volume. If someone occasionally gives a piece of feedback that I don’t like and choose to ignore, going on the defensive can prevent you from getting useful feedback later. But for those people that are constantly criticizing when it isn’t helpful or polite, you have to be assertive.

I examine any feedback I get through these three filters. If I can use the feedback, I thank the other person for their input and start using it immediately. If I can’t use it, but the feedback was genuine, ignoring it and moving forward might be the best option. Finally if the feedback wasn’t genuine or it is being used to manipulate, I assert myself.

Notice how there isn’t a fourth option of, “quietly simmer and resent the comment.” It can be hard to know where to place feedback, but it needs to fit somewhere within the three. Reacting aggressively to helpful advice isn’t useful, but staying quiet in the face of a bully won’t work either.

Scott Young is a University student who writes about personal development, productivity and goal setting. Some of Scott’s popular articles include: Habitual Mastery, Double Your Reading Rate and How to Ace Your Finals Without Studying. You can get his free e-book on Holistic Learning here

No one can live a positive life without failing. However, many people experience a fear of failure, despite its inevitability in life. Failure, as you will see from these 30 success and failure quotes, is the key ingredient for the recipe of success!

Today’s society is obsessed with success and achievement, and failure is definitely NOT part of the equation. Failure and making mistakes is hidden away or seen as a human weakness.

However, if you avoid making mistakes in life, struggle to do everything right, and are obsessed with perfection and order, then living and experiencing a successful and happy life is going to be impossible.

Embrace your failure, whether it is one failure or many failures, because with the right attitude and a willingness to learn from your mistakes, you are guaranteed a lifetime of success. Here are some uplifting quotes about failure and success to help you get started.

1. “Never let success get to your head; never let failure get to your heart.” -Anonymous

This quote is important for those of us who feel downtrodden after every failure, heartbroken, if you will. If you let failure get you down for more than a couple of days, you’re wasting away your chance to bounce back from it.

On the other hand, if you allow yourself to build an inflated ego after every success, future failures may be even harder to cope with. Maintain a sense of humility and gratitude for each success and failure you find.

2. “Just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie?” -Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe is spot on with this one. The first person who should be there to catch you when you fall is you. You have to be your own best advocate, the person to build you up when it feels like everything is going wrong. The others in your support system are just icing on the cake.

3. “You always pass failure on your way to success.” -Mickey Rooney

In today’s competitive world, it’s hard to understand that almost no one experiences failure before they experience genuine, lasting success. Failure is what forces you to learn in order to achieve that goal you’ve been working up to.

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4. “Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.” -Chinese proverb

Everyone falls. Those who refuse to pick themselves back up, no matter if it’s after two days or two years, are the true failures.

5. “Successful people don’t fear failure but understand that it’s necessary to learn and grow from.” -Robert Kiyosaki

There are many success and failure quotes on this idea, and that’s because it’s so very important. Learning doesn’t happen when things are easy. It happens when things get tough and you have to find a way through challenges.

6. “The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.” -Barack Obama

No one can escape failure. If you let it keep you down and shying away from achieving your goals, you’ve failed again. If you learn from it and continue on your path toward greatness, it wasn’t a true failure but a lesson.

7. “Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” -Og Mandion

Determination is one of the best antidotes to failure. Even if you take two steps forward and one step back, you’re still moving forward with grit and determination. Keep going!

8. “Fear regret more than failure.” -Taryn Rose

At the end of your life, what do you think you’ll feel worst about, failing or never trying?

9. “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” -Nelson Mandela

If anyone has enough insight to offer us success and failure quotes, it’s Nelson Mandela. He learned that that path to success (and freedom) is full of setbacks. His determination, however, led him to make amazing changes in the world around him. Now that’s success.

10. “The secret of life is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” -Paulo Coelho

Each time you get back up, it will get easier and easier, and you’ll realize each time that those failures are the greatest lessons life will ever give you.

11. “Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.” -Napoleon Hill

Unfortunately, many people stop trying after a large failure comes their way. They lose their confidence, determination, and will. However, success usually follows quickly behind these huge failures because you’ve inevitably learned what not to do.

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Don’t stop with the huge failure. Take a few more steps and see if it gets you where you wanted to go.

12. I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas Alva Edison

Through his success and failure quotes, Thomas Edison shows us that failures are only truly failures if you don’t learn the lesson they offer.

13. “It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” -Bill Gates

Celebrating success feels good, but learning the lessons of failure is where growth occurs[1], which can lead you to even greater successes.

14. “The only thing that separates success from failure is one last attempt. Try one more time and you will get lucky.” -Apoorve Dubey

Every success comes from an attempt. If you don’t try one more time, you’ll never know if it could’ve been your big chance at big success.

15. “Failure is a detour; not a dead-end street.” -Zig Ziglar

Many people get impatient with failure. They feel that it’s a stopping point, or a road that’s too long to walk. However, the patience to take that new road is exactly what’s necessary to find success. If success is easy to find, it likely won’t last very long.

16. “In the real world, very smart people fail, and mediocre people rise. Part of what makes people fail or succeed are skills that have nothing to do with IQ. Also, the idea that intelligence can be gauged by an IQ test is erroneous.” -Camille Paglia

Failure is not a sign of a lack of intelligence, as Paglia suggests. Failure is a sign of great intelligence and great courage. She also points out the important point that intelligence takes many forms, and it’s often the grit and maturity to accept failure for the temporary setback that it is.

17. “Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” -Oprah Winfrey

Queens will always be queens, no matter if they experience success or failure. And you will always be you, so use that to your advantage, and take the risk of failure in order to reach success.

18. “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” -J.K. Rowling

Living a life free of failure generally means you have lived a boring, uneventful life. Is it really worth it?

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19. “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” -Richard Branson

If you’ve ever watched a child learn to walk, you know that Branson’s success and failure quotes are true. Children are determined. They fall, and they get back up. And then they learn, and soon they’re running.

20. “Success or failure is caused more by mental attitude than by mental capacity.” -Walter Scott

Scott knows that intelligence is less of a determining factor in success than determination or ruthless optimism. Set yourself up for success by cultivating both.

21. “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again. That is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan knows failure, and yet we know him as an incredibly successful person. Why? Because he never let the failures stop him from moving on.

22. “There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.” -José N. Harris

The secrets to success are pretty simple, and living a full life is only possible once you learn that getting up after a failure will bring a great sense of satisfaction and joy.

23. “All people fail at certain instances in their lives, the only thing that makes them different is how they manage to stand up or how they choose to fail again.” -Unknown

If you fail, you’re like the vast majority of the world. What makes you different is how you choose to respond.

24. “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” -Robert Kennedy

If you aim high, even if you fall short you’ll still likely be ahead of the majority of people. Take the time in life to fail greatly because that’s where you’ll find your true self.

25. “Failure is good as long as it doesn’t become a habit.” -Michael Eisner

If you continue to make the same mistakes, you’re not learning from your failures. This is when it becomes a destructive habit instead of a moment to propel you toward success.

26. “If you are afraid of failure, you don’t deserve to be successful.” -Charles Barkley

Only those who are willing to accept the hard emotions that come along with failure will be those who will enjoy the good feelings of genuine success.

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27. “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. It is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead-end street.” -William A. Ward

In his success and failure quotes, Ward points out something important. Failure is often seen as a death stroke, something that stops our success. If we shift our perspective and look upon failure as a teacher instead, we will likely feel very differently about those moments in our life and see that failure is delay, not death.

28. “Courage allows the successful woman to fail and learn powerful lessons from the failure. So that in the end, she didn’t fail at all.” -Maya Angelou

We’ve been here before. Failure is only failure if you don’t learn from it. Let yourself get a bad grade on the test; you’ll study differently next time. Let yourself fail at a relationship; you know how to build a healthier relationship next time.

Every failure brings a lesson. Learn it and move on.

29. “Good people are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure. We get very little wisdom from success, you know.” -William Saroyan

If you think of the moments you learned and grew the most, were they easy times or hard times? Challenges make us better, smarter people[2]. You don’t get wise through an easy life.

30. “Don’t fear failure—not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.” -Bruce Lee

If you try to achieve something great, even a failure feels like a success. At least you had the courage to try. That’s more than most can say.

More Inspirational Quotes

Reference

[1]Harvard Business Review: Strategies for Learning from Failure
[2]Psychology Today: How Greater Challenges Help You Grow