Learn how to appreciate criticism

Before you get offended, take a breather and try to understand their point of view. Source: Rawpixel (via Unsplash)

By Janna Ehrhardt

We all know one person who we tiptoe around because we’ve experienced criticism from them. Whether it’s a family member, a lecturer, or one of your friends, it’s hard not to be offended by their comments, regardless if they had good intentions or not.

Criticism is often perceived as the ugly stepsister of encouragement. Many people don’t know how to deal with it, and one of the reasons is because it has such a negative reputation. I used to struggle with criticism and it took me a while to realise how valuable criticism can be and that it doesn’t necessarily have to be embarrassing or something to be upset by.

So, here are five simple ways to approach criticism if it comes your way

Don’t respond immediately. If you react angrily straight away you will likely make what could have been a constructive exercise instead an awkward encounter. Remember that criticism is just a form of active disagreement and not so much an insult. It only becomes negative when you interpret it that way.

Take time to reflect on their suggestions. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to agree with their perspective, but consider the different opinions and then make your own judgement. Take the time to ask yourself whether or not there is not a pinch of truth in their critique.

Do not always take it personally. If you’re being criticised by your flatmate for the smell of your leftover tuna pizza, that’s not something you should take to heart. Things like this are something so easily rectified it would be silly to let it affect you.

Take criticism as an opportunity to improve yourself. You live and you learn, so acknowledge the value of criticism and keep aiming to be the best version of yourself.

Respond with respect. Try to focus on the words and not so much on the tone. Sometimes criticism is expressed passionately and can seem angry and intense. Before you get upset, consider the steps above and let the person know that you appreciate the suggestion but need time to process what’s been said.

It is important to understand the difference between criticism and constructive criticism. For example, if one of your tutors seems critical of your work, however hard it might be to hear, they only want to help you. If someone seems to have no good intentions, thank them for their comments anyway and move on with your day.

To sum up, don’t overreact and make the situation worse because the chances are that they’re looking out for you. Being at university, you’re likely to come across your fair share of criticism, but don’t let it make you feel weak, instead, learn from it and let it become your strength.

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