How To Deal With Criticism



The generous Critic fann’d the Poet’s fire, And taught the world with reason to admire.” — Edgar Allan Poe

Criticism and critics can cut you down or build you up depending on how you react.

The choice is yours.

Personally, I like to use it as a feedback loop for improvement where possible.

I get some of my best advice from some of my worst critics.

In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, David Burns writes about the three reactions to criticism.

The Three Reactions to Criticism

According to Burns, there are 3 ways to react to criticism::

  1. Sad route – “I’m no good.”
  2. Mad route – “You’re no good.”
  3. Glad route – “Here’s a chance to learn something.”

The Sad Route

According to Burns, in this case, you let the criticism cut you down. You might even magnify the criticism. For example you might over-generalize it and conclude your life is a string of errors. You might label yourself a screw up. The result is you end up sad and anxious. If you choose this path, it’s a road to depression and low-self esteem.

The Mad Route

According to Burns, in this case, you attack your critic. You go into fight or flight mode. The result is that you feel angry and frustrated.

The Glad Route

According to Burns, in this case, you either have self-esteem or act as if you did. Your response is investigative.

Does the criticism contain a grain of truth?

The glad route is gives you more options. By asking a series of questions, you’re in a position to offer a solution. If you need to compromise you can negotiate. If you were wrong you can admit it. If the critic was mistaken, you can tactfully point it out.

Key Take Aways

Here are my key take aways:

  • Know the 3 ways to react to criticism.  The 3 ways are: Sad, Mad, and Glad.
  • Avoid the sad path.  The sad path leads to depression and low self-esteem.
  • Avoid the mad path.  The mad path leads to anger and frustation.
  • Choose the glad path.  The glad path gives you the most options including the chance to improve.

Feedback is a gift.  Exploit it.

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