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How to Respond to Criticism: 4 Strategies to Keep Your Cool

We all face criticism at some point in our lives. It can be hard to take, and it often feels like a personal attack.

I’ve had instances when someone made a negative comment, and I stewed about it. Then, when I finally talked with that person, either I misunderstood the comment or that person wasn’t really being negative at all. They simply wanted more information about what I did or was doing. I had a leader tell me once,

“Questions are simply a quest for understanding.”

But criticism can be a useful tool to help us grow, and learning how to respond to criticism in a constructive way can help you become more successful.

What are 4 ways to respond to criticism?

Take some time to think.

When you’re criticized, it’s important to take a step back and reflect on the situation. Ask yourself questions like: What is the criticism really about? What can I learn from this? How can I use this to improve? Taking some time to think about the criticism and its implications can help you respond in a more measured and constructive way.

Listen carefully.

Listening carefully to criticism is one of the most important steps in responding to it. Pay attention to the words and tone of the criticism, and make sure you understand what the person is saying. Don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions or get defensive. The more you listen, the more you’ll be able to understand the criticism and respond appropriately.

Stay calm.

It’s only natural to feel angry or upset when you’re criticized, but it’s important to stay calm. Take a few deep breaths and try to stay focused on the conversation. Don’t let your emotions take over, or you may say or do something you regret.

Offer solutions.

Once you’ve taken time to reflect and listen to the criticism, it’s time to respond. Instead of getting defensive or arguing, try to offer solutions. Show that you’re taking the criticism seriously and that you’re willing to make changes. This will demonstrate that you’re open to feedback and willing to grow.

When someone complains about change, ask them three questions.

  1. What specifically is your focus of concern?
  2. How has that change affected you personally?
  3. What are you afraid of?

Then I respond, “Can I share with you why we made the change?” i.e., the vision of what could be better?” “

The person will have three responses: red light, yellow light, and green light.
RED LIGHT: Totally disagree.  But then they’ll have to live with their angst about the change.

YELLOW LIGHT: Whatever it is, it’s mutual.

GREEN LIGHT: I totally get it, even though I don’t agree.

But then, as leaders, we can learn from their perspective. “Eat the fish, spit out the bones.”

“Do not scoff at prophecies; but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.”

1 Thessalonians 5:19–22

Learning how to respond to criticism in a constructive way is an important skill. It can help you stay cool, collected, and open to constructive criticism. By taking time to reflect, listening carefully, staying calm, and offering solutions, you can respond to criticism in a way that will help you grow and become more successful.


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