How to Handle Criticism (Part 1 of 3)

No one likes the sting of criticism. Learn how best to deal with it.

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #99

Buy Some Time With Silence

Though you can’t control the other person, you can influence him or her with your response. Your choice to remain silent, turn away for a bit, or take a breath buys you time and may be a gift to them as well.

Since we rarely know all the circumstances of someone’s life, give them space to re-listen to their words. Some people just aren’t very sensitive to people's feelings, but I choose to believe that most people are not mean-spirited. Give them a minute to possibly take back the words--or at least acknowledge how they said them.

Another reason to avoid an immediate, defensive response is that in most cases, you’ll only be adding to the problem. Reacting, which tends to come from emotion, rather than responding, which can come from thoughtful consideration, often just adds more fuel to an already volatile situation.

Diffuse Criticism Quickly by Saying Thanks

A short, a simple way to quickly diffuse criticism is to say, “Thank-you.” I like to say, “Thanks for taking the time to give me feedback. I sincerely appreciate it.” If you sense that you are in control of your emotions, you might also approach the criticism with curiosity. “Thanks for letting me know; can you tell me more so I can understand better?”

You could also say, “Can you help me understand why you think that…” “Can you give me specific examples?” “What was your impression when…” If you are open to learning, these questions can help you modify your behavior.

In addition, it helps to not be certain about your own perspective. Your openness allows the other person to perceive that you are approachable and want to have a discussion about the issue. However, if you feel blindsided and not yet ready for more details, you may choose to skip that.

Finally, don’t assume you understand the other person’s perceptions or intentions. And of course, don’t resort to name calling or blame. Up to this point, your only goal is to try to understand.

An Example of How to Deal with Criticism

Recently a listener gave me feedback about what she perceived as a “forced chuckle.” Initially I responded by saying, “Thanks for the feedback.” Later I decided to explore this perspective (with curiosity) by asking others on The Public Speaker Facebook page whether anyone else held a similar opinion. One person responded that they agreed with the comment, so I decided to ask her to help me understand her perspective better. To be clear, I wasn’t necessarily agreeing with the perception. However, I did appreciate the information and I was (and am) open to learn more.

The next episode will pick up from here …

This is The Public Speaker Lisa B. Marshall with Beth Beutler this week. Our success depends upon your success.

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If you have a question, send email to publicspeaker@quickanddirtytips.com. For information about keynote speeches or workshops, visit lisabmarshall.com.

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About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.