Countering Criticism

Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing. 
  - Aristotle 

It is inevitable that if you are a creator of any sort, you will encounter criticism. The reality is that we all face criticism in our lives in some form from family, friends, neighbours, employers, clients... even a cat will give you a critical look once in a while, usually around food delivery or attention. What's the best way to respond to criticism? 

Our natural response is usually to go on the defensive with arguments rationalizing our behaviour or work. Perhaps a more effective initial response would be to pause and create the time and space to evaluate criticism in a more detached manner. Is the criticism valid? Can the comments be used in a constructive manner to improve or change? 

Direct criticism opens up a pathway of communication. We should be thankful that someone is reading, listening and paying attention to what we are doing. Take advantage of the opportunity to communicate and seek clarification. What can be done to better serve their needs? They may not always respond, but seeking clarity and addressing their concerns shows respect for their perspective and can turn a critic into an ally. 

There will be situations when criticism is simply destructive and hurtful. Consider the source. It may arise from a condition of stress, bullying, self doubt or lack of self compassion. Responding in kind is never effective. A compassionate response thanking them for their comments and seeking clarification may help but if the criticism continues or escalates it may be best to just avoid or ignore the source. 

The most pervasive criticism comes from our internal, self critic. That voice in our head that raises doubt about our worth, abilities and appearance. Self criticism can be the most difficult to deal with as it is deeply rooted in past experience. However, self criticism also opens a pathway to greater self awareness. Reflect on where critical thoughts originate and what you can do to counter them. This is hard work that takes commitment, time and may benefit from outside professional help, but it is well worth the effort. 

Responding to critics of all types is an ongoing challenge but as Aristotle so wisely observed, the only way to avoid criticism is to say, do and be nothing.

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