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Enduring Criticism

Written By Steven Sewell

Enduring criticism is about as much fun as sticking your tongue in a light socket.

“Dear Steve, it’s a good thing you’re reading this because you’re one of the most incompetent and inconsiderate people I know. I’ve known eight year olds that do a better job than you do and seven year olds who are more responsible. (which only makes sense, because most of the time you act like you’re six!) Do you really think that maturity is optional? Do you think it’s cool to be disorganized? No one likes you. I can barely stand you, and…”

Enduring criticism is about as much fun as sticking your tongue in a light socket. No sane person enjoys it but it seems to go with every territory I know. If you are in sales, marketing, service, or simply answer the phone, you will get a good dose of criticism whether you like it or not. And no well intentioned person should tolerate it – right?


Criticism may be not far off in the fun category of a root canal but it doesn’t mean that we should avoid it. Did you know that there are 3 different types of criticism? First there is valid category. This is the good stuff and often the most difficult to handle because it forces us to admit our failures. Secondly, unjustified criticism is the bad of the three. It often surfaces because of someone’s unspoken expectations- which is their fault not yours. The third type of criticism is the ugly vague kind. This is simply a warning that someone doesn’t like you.

The challenge lies in how we deal with these words… or how we don’t. Let me make a few suggestions on how we can value criticism (without becoming a doormat for every cheap shot stomped on our heads).

1 – Expect criticism: Let’s just admit it, we make mistakes, miscalculations, and mishaps… who doesn’t. But that should not keep us sitting like a duck waiting to be shot. Know this, if you do something, you will be criticized. If you expect to be criticized, you will find that it hurts less and helps more. Expect it when the honey moon is over, when you have done something stupid, when everything is going poorly, and when things are going well.

2 – Assume criticism is valid until proven otherwise: It doesn’t matter where it comes from, assume that it’s valid. Rather than appointing yourself as the defense attorney, get in the business of accepting that maybe you can learn something from the person.

3 – Delay your response to criticism: The Bible says that “a gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up wrath”. If we as people in the public eye will learn this, I believe we would avoid all kinds of messes.

Few of us relish criticism- giving it or receiving it. But we all need it. And a healthy environment for sharing concerns, confrontations, and feedback (a good team environment) can start with you- if you are willing to let others take a hard look.

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