Dealing with Criticism: How do YOU cope?

Dealing with Criticism: How do YOU cope?

Sharing your story with others and exposing your vulnerability can hurt, if you are sharing it with an unreceptive audience.  “Unreceptive” meaning that they are not listening to what you are truly saying and do not understand the experience/situation.  

For example, if one of your friends shares a story about being criticized, how do you help them cope with it? Do you provide support, or tell them to “suck it up”?

“How do you deal with critics?” is a question I have asked all the individuals in the “Profiles of Perseverance” interview series. They have shared their tips on how to deal with it. Each one has acknowledged that criticism does indeed hurt and can negatively influence one’s life if not coped with in a healthy way.  The experience of being criticized is universal.  The insults hurt, and we all have our own ways of dealing with them.  However, you can ask anyone and they will have their own stories of the pain of criticism and the journey to overcome it.

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In the past, the way I coped with insults was by seeking support and advice from others. Many people like to offer advice – I think the worst piece I ever got was when, after sharing with someone that I had been criticized, I was told in a harsh tone, “Suck it up and deal with it.”  I had been really low, as someone had said something really hurtful when I was vulnerable.  Usually I am good with bouncing back from an insult, but this time it took a little longer.  My delay in bouncing back wasn’t due to the insulting comment; it was because of how I dealt with it. 

I had gone to a friend for support, but they had responded in a harsh way.   They didn’t understand why I was hurt, so I was told to “Suck it up and pull myself together!” This phrase sounds like an easy task, but the response was not at all what I needed at that time.  What I needed was some understanding, compassion, and love. I didn’t get that from this person and felt like my feelings were silly and a waste of time. It was clear my friend couldn’t (or was choosing not to) see things from my perspective.  Did they not know what it was like to be in the position I was in?! 

They made me feel like my story wasn’t important.  I have since told the person that the way they responded hurt me, and we have deepened our relationship.  

However, I still find it hard to share my true feelings and be deep with certain people because being told to “suck it up” is not the response I appreciate.  That is how that person may deal with things, but we all have our own personal coping style. Insults hurt and as much as you want to say they don’t – negative words impact you.  Why is it that as a culture, we are taught to deal with criticism by hardening our outer layer, developing a thick skin, and numbing our souls?!

Criticism and bullying are not light matters and should not be brushed off.  If someone musters up the courage to share their journey with you – respect them by listening to them and being present.  My reaction to many situations in my life in the last several years has been:  Are individuals becoming  so shallow and self-centred that they don’t even invest time and energy into digging deep in relationships?

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This saddens me. People NEED others to share their lives with.  Are people becoming so busy and preoccupied with their own lives that they can’t see the pain in someone’s eyes?!  People come into your life and share their story with you; but for various reasons, they are not taken seriously, are disregarded, or are undervalued. 

This needs to change.  I mean, you don’t have to be their therapist but you can show humanity to them.  For example, if someone says “I just broke up with my partner,” don’t respond with “suck it up, you’ll find another.” Rather, change it to “I’m sorry about that, breaking up is hard. How are you doing?”

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How do you deal with criticism? I would love to hear your feedback.

Update (January 29th, 2014)

  • I found this wonderful video by Brene Brown about dealing with criticism. Have a look below. Thanks Brene!

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