Receiving Criticism


Some people struggle with receiving criticism. What can we do to help them move from being defensive and hurt to grow as a leader?

Some criticize because it is their job or because of their relationship, like a coach, a teacher, a boss, or a parent. Some may simply enjoy irritating others. Criticism may flow because of something you did or said that is at odds with the way the critic sees the world. Still others may criticize for reasons that have nothing directly to do with you; they may be upset, emotional, exhausted, or they may be trying to prove that they have worth or are more important or more intelligent. They may be trying to inflate their own self-worth, self-esteem, or self-importance.

Criticism often occurs when: 1) we make a mistake, 2) someone thinks we made a mistake, or 3) someone uses it as a “gottcha” opportunity to express thoughts or feelings that are rooted is something else—such as criticizing your work, when in reality they are more concerned with some other issue or have a hidden agenda.

Additionally, many people report that criticism is negative in tone and delivery, partly because we have been “taught” that this is the proper approach to criticism, and partly because it is just easier to call attention to faults. Additionally, people tend to label negative comments as criticism, whereas information that is perceived by the recipient to be helpful may be labeled as “feedback.” Interestingly the antonym of criticism is “praise,” further confirming the negative connotation. Of course, terms like advice, criticism, feedback, evaluation, opinion, pointers, reactions, suggestions, and so forth have sometimes been used interchangeably; however, the term “criticism” has the strongest emotional reaction and, thus, is the term that needs the greatest consideration.

Although some might choose to label criticism as something else, it is likely far better to deal with the emotions, reactions, attitudes, and difficulties that have come to be associated with the term rather than to engage in a “shell game” of musical labeling. In other words, criticism is the hot button issue and the word that evokes the most sentiment, so let’s deal with it directly. Keep in mind that ultimately it really does not matter what you call criticism, as this is determined by the interpretation and assessment of the recipient.

When coaching a person who is struggling with criticism, what can we do to help him/her move from being defensive and hurt to grow as a leader?

Written by Randy Garner


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