If our focus is trying to avoid dealing with criticism we will miss the mark and fail accomplish much of significance. We are going to get criticized often. In this episode we give 10 our our pointers for dealing with criticism.

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Ten Pointers for Dealing with Criticism 

Last Week in episode 125, we talked about Four Kinds of Criticism. This episode builds on last week episodes. Following are our notes for this week’s podcast. These are our notes, the podcast contains more discussion and information.

If our focus is trying to avoid dealing with criticism we will miss the mark and fail accomplish much of significance. We are going to get criticized often. In this episode we give 10 our our pointers for dealing with criticism.

#1 Learn to recognize whether the criticism is constructive or destructive.

How you deal with criticism is going to be related to the intent and heart of the giver. Fix in your mind the four types of criticism described (last week) and become practiced in quickly evaluating whether to dismiss or give audience. 

#2 Receive it, get it over with, and move on quickly. 

Once you categorize the criticism, determine what actions you need to take, if any. Do not dwell endlessly on the criticism. Do not continue to play it over and over in your head. 

If the criticism is on social media — manage it. Is their comment constructive or destructive. It’s your platform, if you feel it necessary you can delete the comment and block the person. Of course, the challenge comes if the person is someone you interact with regularly in day to day life. If the person persists, and you do not really know them, they may be a troll—block them and be done with it. On very rare occasion, once or twice, I have actually “unfriended” friends on Facebook who I love and care about because they have not respected my desire for my page to not turn into a forum for their agenda. I have not meant it personally. I just don’t have the energy to referee arguments on my Facebook page. 

Receive the criticism or don’t receive it. Either way, try to move on quickly. 

By the way, our topic is criticism; dealing with conflict is another matter. The intent of this article is to encourage us to not become paralyzed because of criticism. When true conflicts arise, you must be thoughtful in properly working through it. 

#3 Understand your hypersensitivities.

Sometimes things in our past caused us to develop sensitivity. For instance, one of my dad’s values was working hard. If my dad called someone lazy, it was an insult of high degree. Sometimes dad would get frustrated with me if I didn’t have something done, and he called me “lazy” a few times. That cut deep. Now, if I don’t get something done before someone circles back and asks me for it, I feel I have failed; and I immediately feel I am being criticized. Usually people are just asking if something is ready, but I have to be vigilant that I do not respond as though I am being attacked or criticized. 

Sometimes we feel criticized and we aren’t being criticized at all. Do you have a “chip” on your shoulder that makes you hypersensitive? As leaders we have to control our “chips”. 

#4 Write a response, but don’t send it. 

When a criticism deeply stings us and we just don’t know what to do with it, writing can help us process our feelings. Putting our feelings on paper helps us determine our best course of action.

Most of the time, when we write a response to a criticism, by the time we get to the end of our writing we feel better and realize our course of action. As a rule, don’t hit “send”, at least not the same day. Usually you need to just delete what you’ve written and then move on with the action you’ve determined, whether it be a measured response or just letting it go. 

#5 Find trusted friends who are qualified to bring perspective.

Trusted friends can help us process. Is there any truth to the criticism? Should I change something? Should I respond? How should I respond?

We need trusted friends who can and will speak the truth to us. It doesn’t help me if I look to a mentor or a peer and they just tell me what I want to hear and affirm me even when I need to make adjustments. A friend will love me and believe in me. They will lean to the grace side. They will try to see the positive and affirm me. If they have input, they will do it gently and properly. 

I need mentors and friends (i.e. a “Paul,” a “Barnabas,” and “Timothy” relationships) who understand my context. Choose to process with friends who are qualified. They have experience with the things you are dealing with. 

On my recent journey of dealing with loss I have learned that when I am criticized for my responses that I need the input of someone who has walked this road before me. I usually discount criticism from people who have not experienced what they are addressing. When I have doubts, I talk to someone who has had similar experiences; they bring a perspective I need. 

#6 Be careful where you introduce your pearls.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches his followers many lessons on how to live life. In the context of Matthew, chapter 7, Jesus warns us about being judgmental. Jesus identified hypocrisy as criticizing our brother for a speck in his eye when we have a log in our own. 

In this context Jesus taught his followers that they should not expect everyone to appreciate the things important to them. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you” (Matthew 7:6, ESV). When we expect people who do not share our values to appreciate things important to us, we expose ourselves to destructive criticism. Sometimes it is unavoidable; it is what it is. Consider the source and dismiss it quickly. 

Here’s a couple of pointers for dealing with this…

When you are giving birth to something new, you need to first get input from people who will understand. Do not take your tender, new, and vulnerable ideas and parade them in front of abrasive critics and strangers. First, expose your heart, your dreams, your vision, and your creativity to people who care about you and people who understand you. Before you include the most critically analytical members of your team, unveil your heart first to those who will try to see your idea in the best light, give them opportunity for input, make adjustments, and then move on to the analytical people. 

Protect yourself when you are vulnerable and make sure you have some strength gathered before you leap into the arena. 

#7 Have a “good file.”

You are going to be criticized, so keep an account of your affirmations. I do not know the numbers, but it seems to me that for every negative criticism I get there are at least 10 affirmations. Keep a physical or electronic file of your affirmations. Pull it out when you need to remember how the positive completely outweighs the negative. 

Our district pastor, Don Gifford, keeps what he calls a “good file.” I’ve seen it. This file is at least 3 inches thick of printed affirmations. When a criticism stings, he pulls out the good file and reads a few affirmations. 

George Wood, the General Superintendent for my Fellowship, the Assemblies of God, has what he calls a “rainy-day file.” He says that when he is old and grey and sitting on his porch reflecting on his life that he will pull out the file and remember the good things. 

I suggest that you keep such a file. But if you don’t, do remember that when someone stings you with something hurtful there are most likely 10 other people standing in line to encourage you and cheer you on. 

#8 Make sure to hear and value the critic if they mean well.

Leaders are in the people business. Leadership is about wanting to see redemptive transformation in the lives of the people we lead. If someone is evil and destructive, I must do my best to put their input out of my mind and move on; however, when I have a relationship with someone, I need to hear what they are saying. I may not agree with them and I may not want to hear it; but if I value the person, I need to listen, give consideration, and act accordingly. 

I’ve found that most people, good people, just want to be valued and heard. Good people will accept that you do not agree with them, but they will appreciate you even more if you genuinely try to understand what they are saying to you and where they are coming from. 

#9 Deal with the criticism privately, not publicly.

A common temptation is to address criticism publicly. Do not use the pulpit or a public communication forum to defend or answer criticism, directly or indirectly. When someone criticizes us, we need to deal with the criticism in the forum it was delivered. If personally delivered, then personally respond, if you respond at all. When we use a public forum to address a matter that does not deserve public attention we validate dysfunctional critics. 

When someone introduces criticism in a public meeting, if it is an appropriate forum for discussion, fine, but generally move the criticism “offline.” Move it into a private discussion to be held later so the matter can be dealt with and its merits can be evaluated. 

#10 Respond with truth. 

As ministers of truth, sometimes we have a responsibility to respond with truth. Not because it makes us feel better, or not that it even solves anything, but we have a responsibility to help the people under our care and leadership to grow, mature, and develop. We have to frame our comments carefully as to not return evil for evil (1 Peter 3:8-9), because most of the time, misplaced criticism comes from ignorance or immaturity and not wickedness. 

These previous 10 points are just a few ways to deal with criticism. You might want to take a few moments and just add to the list some of the ways you’ve found productive in dealing with criticism. 

Some Thoughts on Self-Criticism

  • Sometimes we are our own worst critics. Do you sometimes sabotage your own success by being overly critical? 
  • Self-criticism is related to perfectionism. Can you give yourself permission to be less than perfect?
  • Do your have partners, friends, or teammates who can help you gain perspective over your own “self-talk”?

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