Responding to critics
May 25, 2016
I have heard a story about Winston Churchill and his extraordinary integrity in the face of opposition. During his last year in office, he attended an official ceremony. Several rows behind him two gentlemen began whispering. “That’s Winston Churchill. They say he is getting senile. They say he should step aside and leave the running of the nation to more dynamic and capable men.” When the ceremony was over, Churchill turned to the men and said, “Gentlemen, they also say he is deaf.”
How you respond to critics is very important part of building yourself. It’s all too easy to get defensive when critics rub us the wrong way or misunderstand us. There is also a possibility of us being wrong as well. Ask yourself why the criticism was made. Is the person trying to help, to make things better, to help you avoid making mistakes, to suggest positive improvements? Is the person just in a cranky rude mood, having a bad day? Is the person just mean, or jealous? Is there good reason for the criticism?My dad gave me an outstanding piece of advice when I first left to US. He said, “If you take the blame when you deserve it, you will take responsibility and will improve and become a better person." I have found that to be very true. Difficult, but true. In my experience, until someone in a group (or in a family) accepts blame, everyone stays very anxious and focused on fingering the person at fault. Once I take responsibility and be accountable, then everyone else can relax. And then we can all focus on what needs to be done.
Thank the person offering the criticism. Sometimes they’re coming from a place of wanting to help you. That takes courage, and is a very generous thing. Be grateful for that. Even when they’re not trying to be helpful, they’ve taken the time to respond to you — and trust me, getting a response is better than absolute silence. Provoking a reaction means you’ve done something interesting — and for that, you should be thankful. Either way, thanking the critic will help lead to a positive exchange.
It is also important not immediately respond but delay the response. Delaying the response gives time to think it over and not be reactive. Calm yourself down before responding. Always. Responding to a critic in anger is never, ever, ever a good idea.Respond rationally and calmly. Instead of being defensive, be honest. Share your reasons, acknowledge the other person’s points if there’s any validity, and come to a rational conclusion rather than jealously guarding your way of doing things.
Or stay silent. If you can’t respond with grace, then just don’t respond. Silence is a much better response than anger or defensiveness or quitting.