self improvement

The Art of Taking Criticism

There are lots of people on this planet, and they all have their opinions. That means that all of us should expect to receive lots of criticism in our lifetime. Friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, random strangers…they all have something to say (just as we often do ourselves). And if you have any kind of online presence, you can expect to receive much more criticism, as everyone comes out under the veil of anonymity.

There’s no avoiding this, so we need to be prepared to take criticism in a way that’s going to be best for everyone. Here are some tips for doing just that.

1. Check the critic’s motives

Some critics are not honestly trying to help, but just want to provoke a reaction. If someone attacks you with a nonsensical anonymous comment online, they’re not seriously interested in having a real discussion. You wouldn’t take the bait if a loud drunk wanted to tell you what’s wrong with you, because there’s nothing to be gained by arguing.

With that in mind, whenever you sense that someone is criticizing you without having the intention of helping, don’t lose your temper. Ignore them if you can, or just give a quick response to indicate that you’re not going to bother trying. Then get on with your life.

2. If the critic just gives a vague complaint, ask what you can do better

Sometimes people will say something like “you’re awful,” without explaining why or suggesting what you can do better. Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt in assuming that they’re trying to offer constructive criticism, they need to be much more specific for any good to come of it.

So just ask what you can do better. The nice thing about this is that it’s very easy to ask for details, and then the ball’s in their court. The burden is on them to come up with specifics. If they can’t come up with anything, it’s easy to disregard their criticism.

3. If the critic gives helpful advice, say thanks

If someone’s trying to help you, there’s no need to be defensive. If someone tells you something you can improve, they’ve done you a favor. Because without them, you might have continued to make the same mistakes for years without realizing it.

You don’t need to try to explain why it’s not your fault. Just accept responsibility for it. Be grateful that the other person decided to bring a problem to your attention instead of saying nothing. Remember that they’re trying to help you. So don’t get upset, just say “thank you.”

4. If the critic doesn’t know the whole story, talk to them about it

A lot of times, the situation may be more complex than it appears. People might see what appears to be an obvious solution, without realizing that there are drawbacks to that approach.

If somebody just wants to give you a tip, you can say “OK, thanks” and move on. But sometimes, especially if the other person knows you well, it’s helpful to talk about it.

You can say, “You know, I hear what you’re saying, and I’d really like to be able to do it that way. But the last time I tried something like that, it didn’t work because _________. How can I get around that?”

Assuming this is somebody who’s willing to take the time to talk it out with you, this shows that you really appreciate their opinion. Not to mention that you can get some great insights.

One last tip

Finally, when you’re the one giving advice, be sure to remember how it feels to be on the receiving end! If you think you can help someone, offer your advice, but proceed with caution.

Keep in mind that what’s right for you might not be right for them, and that there might be other sides of the story you’re not considering. And be aware that the other person might be more defensive than you’d expect them to be, especially if they’ve had to deal with many critics whose intentions weren’t as good as yours.

Make a point of taking criticism well, and you’ll be able to deflect pointless attacks while making the most of good advice.

About the writer: Hunter Nuttall wants you to stop sucking and live a life of abundance. Visit his site to learn how to improve your life and your income.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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