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November 23, 2010
Criticism Sucks, or Does It? How to Manage It With Dignity

Criticism can bite. Hard. There’s two scenarios. You're being justly critiqued (no one's perfect.) In which case, your ego needs to shake it off like a wet dog and keep wagging its tail. Even so, if you're being rightly ‘dissed, you’ve still got to find your dignified zone. The other scenario is that someone is out of line and you're at the receiving end of his or her misperception and poor taste. This type of criticism actually is more complicated and messy. But either way, criticism is a call to be your classiest self.
Here are 11 approaches for dealing with criticism:

1.) Admit that it stings. “Ouch. That’s hard to hear, but I’m up for it.” Honesty when criticized is a great equalizer and a show of nobility and maturity.

2.) Expand. Sometimes criticism stings because we know the criticizer has a valid point. After you’ve done the inner wince, take a deep breath and get back in the ring. Look, just because you may need to clean up your act a bit, it doesn’t mean that you’re a full-scale loser. We're all just bozos on the same bus, as my dear friend Donna would say. So literally, take a deep expansive breath, with your fists unclenched. You sustain less injury when you do not brace for impact. I guess that's why they call it "rolling with the punches."

3.) Don’t react -- yet. Sometimes it’s best to just listen and simply say, “I heard you. Let me process what you've said and I’ll get back to you tomorrow.” So many are so adrift from our deep sensitivity that it takes some time to clearly know how we feel. Take the time; it’s better than a half-cocked reaction that you’ll regret. If you do say something you regret, or you don’t say what you think you should have.

4.) Go back to it. Feel free to bring it up again, even if it was a closed subject. "I thought more about what you said and I just wanted to let you know that.” It’s better to clear the air after the fact than it is to bury your feelings.

5.) Consider the source. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, to succeed is to “earn the appreciation of honest critics.” First, you need to consider your source and their motivation. If you feel you’re being inaccurately criticized, then you need to say so in no uncertain terms. This is tricky because you may be perceived as being defensive. In this case, it’s good to refer to point No. 3. Collect your thoughts and give a rebuttal that shows your strengths (I’m a rock star because I ... ) and describes the challenges of the situation (I’ve been operating on a dime budget ...).

6.) Be compassionate to your criticizer. This can really soften the situation. Giving honest criticism is no fun for most people, and it’s often a case of, “This is going to hurt me as much as it might hurt you.”

7.) Don’t take any s---. Sometimes you have to play hardball. I once got a super crappy performance review from a manger at a retail job. I got on the phone right away and called the big cheese. “There’s no way I’m signing this review, and there’s no way I’m quitting. I think she's losing her marbles." My knees were shaking but I knew I had to do it. As it turned out, I wasn’t the only person complaining about Crazy Manageress. She left shortly thereafter. Guess who got promoted?

8.) Know your rights. Sometimes there are legalities to consider. Your job may be on the line. If you lip off, and it leads to a dismissal, you want to know what your rights are employers may need to formally warn you in writing, etc. You also have the right to be treated with respect no matter how severely you screw up. Criticism given without care is irresponsible.

9.) Bring closure to it. If you’re being asked to improve in some way, then ask for specific measurables. You can’t run a race if you don’t know where the finish line is. Be extra diligent about checking in on mutual satisfaction.

10.) Say thank you. No, really. Whether you’ve been rightly our wrongly critiqued, say thanks. Either way, it’s a learning opportunity.

11.) Lick your wounds. Bruises need ice packs and hot baths. Be kind to yourself because tomorrow is another day and you've have to be up for the ride.

Life never dishes out something you can't handle.

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Danielle LaPorte is the creator of WhiteHotTruth.com, which has been called "the best place on-line for kick-ass spirituality." She is the author of "The Fire Starter Sessions: Spark Your Genius. Make It Matter," an inspirational speaker, former think tank exec, news show commentator, and lead author of "Style Statement". Follow her on Twitter. 

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