Dealing with criticism

In our daily interactions with people, both in and out of the working environment, we need to deal with criticism.

In general, there are 3 types of critique that you could receive:

  1. Valid criticism;
  2. Invalid criticism;
  3. Statements that criticise, but are based on personal judgement.


Depending on the type of criticism that you receive, there is a distinct way of dealing with it.

Valid criticism:


Continually and knowingly coming late to work.

How to react:

  1. Get details of situation as the other person sees it.
  2. Be open to self-development.
    1. “I am struggling with this deadline, I need some assistance.”
  3. Use “I” statements to give your viewpoint.
  4. Listen with empathy.
  5. Acknowledge feelings: “I understand that it is frustrating when I do not give you regular updates.”
  6. Listen for the correct facts. Agree where relevant.
    1. “Yes you are right, I should not smoke in front of clients.”
  7. Ask for feedback on what can be done to correct or in future.
  8. Use thank you statements instead of saying sorry.
    1. “Thank you for this discussion, I understand what I need to do differently.”


In-valid criticism:


You are being blamed incorrectly for something that you did not do.

How to react:

  1. Ask fact-based questions.
    1. “Can you give me more detail”
  2. Validate feelings.
    1. “I understand that you are angry, also understand that I had nothing to do with this” (Note the use of “I” statements)
  3. Use ‘I’ statements to give your viewpoint.
    1. “I feel upset every time there is a miscommunication. In future, I would appreciate it if…”


Statements or Opinions that criticise, but are based on personal judgement:


“You are always finding fault with this project! Can’t you be more positive?”

How to react:

  1. Stay calm.
  2. Do not get defensive.
  3. Understand their concern.
  4. Use the power of silence and non-verbal communication to reassure.
  5. Ask fact-based questions to disarm the person and forces them to rethink the accuracy of their statement:
    1. Can you give me examples of exactly when I found a fault?
    2. Can you provide more details of how I am not positive?


In conclusion:

Dealing with criticism is part of life. We grow at the border of positive feedback and challenge.

Use the challenge of criticism – whatever type – to help you grow and become a more confident and assertive professional.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *