How to deal with criticism: Constructive and Destructive

How to deal with criticism: Constructive and Destructive

I had a meeting with my old college friend, he was coming from distant city. I was excited to meet him. It was Sunday; I had a couple of household works in hand. I was trying to a finish the work fast and reach to the venue on time. As always happens, I got late. I had planned too many task to finish in time. It was my mistake.
When I reached to the destination, my friend was angry. He rebuked me for getting late. I apologized him and settled the matter somehow.

Later that night. His words were resonating in my mind. I knew it was my fault and I should change my habit of getting late. Why was I feeling bad about the matter? Why do people criticize us? why can’t people accept us as we are?

This typical situation occur when we receive criticism. I don’t like criticism, neither you do. But we cannot escape from it. The better alternative is to understand it and find solution to handle it.

How to deal with criticism: Constructive and Destructive
Photo by @lattefarsan

Why do people criticize others

You will agree with me on the fact that we regularly receive criticism. Our boss, family members, office colleagues, friends, neighbors even strangers criticize us for different reasons.

#Lifestyle: People criticism us for different reasons, but the root cause behind all is discomfort/uneasiness Click To Tweet

Before delving into the nitty-gritty of the criticism handling mechanism, let’s just think about reason for its existence, because our behavior was not as per their expectation.


Let me explain my point. Our behavior is the end result of our values and beliefs system. We all act thinking that our action are the best possible action considering the circumstances. But due to difference in our values and beliefs system people act differently in the same situation.

We human being have a tendency to expect that everyone will act as per our values and beliefs system. If we respond to a situation in certain way, we expect everyone to follow the same.

As you can guess, it is a false expectation because people have different values so they act differently, but when it happens; we get this feeling of discomfort and queasiness. We criticize others for not acting the way we wanted. Basically, criticism is our response to this feeling of discomfort.

When someone criticize you next time, think of it as a response to their discomfort.


How do we feel when receiving criticism

Criticism is inevitable. As criticism is the end result of expectation mismatch and we cannot fulfill everyone expectation, we are bound to receive criticism from one person or the other.

But it hurts. It hurts deeply, when we receive criticism from close one, from people we value, from friends and relatives. It hurts even, when a stranger makes a criticizing comment.

But why does it hurt? Is it because criticism tarnishes our self-image or because it forces to change our existing belief system. Actually, it could be both. It also depends on the nature of criticism. Some criticism are solely for the purpose of hurting our feelings while others are made with an intention to improve us and differentiating between the two is a crucial skill.


As human being, we tend to remain in our comfort zone; we have a tendency to avoid discomfort and pain. We choose a path which requires least change in our behavior while avoiding pain and It is true with all of us.

#Lifestyle: The less assured we are that we are right on the matter criticized, more it hurts. Click To Tweet

So, when somebody criticizes us, our first response is to defend our position, the status qua. We justify ourselves on realistic or fictitious grounds. The less assured we are that we are right on the matter criticized, the more importance we give to the criticism, and more it hurts. Its reverse is equally true. Criticism hurts most, when we are criticize on some known weakness that we are unwilling or unable to improve upon; it could be our complexion, height, voice, physical stricture, procrastinating attitude or anything. We play criticism again and again in our mind until we take resolution to react on the issue positively or negatively.


Differentiate between constructive and destructive criticism

Why is it important to Differentiate criticism.

Because, not all criticism is equal. Some are made with the malignant intentions of hurting our feelings and self-image; while the other with a motive to guide us for improvement. All who want to succeed in life should know to differentiate them. As we know criticism of either nature is bound to hurt us, we may find it difficult to Differentiate between the two.

The derogatory criticism by its nature is destructive, because its aims to destruct our confidence, belief and happiness. Person making destructive criticism has no intention in our well-being. Jealousy is the root of destructive criticism. A person who aspires to be like us in some respect but fails to do so, gets envious of us; to soothe his self-esteem from this failure, he finds our faults and shortcoming, and criticize us. When we feel outrageous, criticizer gets his peace.

On he other hand, we are not perfect; possibilities of improvement remains unexplored. Our well-wishers, when observe some areas of improvement in us, criticize us to bring behavioral changes and improvement. When they criticize, they don’t want to hurt us; they give us a positive feedback that we should accept on welfare grounds; Such criticisms are constructive criticism, or constructive feedback.


Creating taxonomy alone will do no help; more important task is to identify and Differentiate between the two; so we could tackle them differently.


We can identify Destructive Criticism with following features.

1. Judgemental and conclusive in nature:

Destructive criticism is one-sided. There is no scope for receiver’s contribution. Criticizer concludes alone that the situation cannot be improved; the receiver is worthless.

2. Self serving:

Sometimes, people criticize us to accomplish their personal motive. By criticism, they want to create pressure on us to get things done; such malicious intentions are only self serving, and such criticisms can only be classified as destructive criticisms.

3. Imposed in public without permission

If criticizer only wants to malign our image, what could be better than criticizing in public. Criticizer knows well that criticism in public hurts the most; he often chooses public places where public know you to accomplish his goal.

4.No intention of welfare

The derogatory criticism has only one intention i.e. to hurt our feeling and make us feel worthless; Sometimes, however, destructive criticizer chooses to disguise his malicious intention in the name of constructive criticism and deliver it in malifulous voice; he does not want to confront directly. Be careful, always verify criticizer’s intentions before classifying criticism in either class.

#Lifestyle: Destructive criticizer may choose to disguise malicious intention in the name of constructive criticism.… Click To Tweet [irp]

5. Intended to hurt self-esteem on some uncontrollable grounds.

Each individual is unique, but people judge us all the time based on preconceived notions. Some people are fat, some have dark complexion, while some other stammers. These are parts of their personality traits; people should accept them as they are. But, destructive criticizer uses weaknesses as opportunity to disparage. When someone criticizes on impossible to change ground, recognize the criticism as destructive criticism.

6. Personal in nature

It is one of the main characteristic of destructive criticism. An ideal criticism should be based on behavior; focused is on behavioral changes not on the receiver as a person. Destructive criticism is personalized. Instead of focusing on the behavioral changes, it tends to reinforce the receiver as worthless.

7. It is vague

“you are useless”, “you cannot do anything in life” are some examples of destructive criticism. You can observe; the criticizer does not specify what behavioral changes he expect from the receiver. It is just an attempt to discourage the receiver.

8. It is delivered in harsh and annoyed voice:

This is natural. When someone wants to only insult you, a harsh and bitter tone will give the best flavor to his intentions.


On the other hand, constructive criticism has following features.

1. Made with intention for improvement:

Constructive criticism seeks improvement in receiver’s behavior. Instead of maligning us, criticizer wants our welfare. We should always judge Criticisms by it’s intention; If the intention is benevolent identify criticism as constructive, despite its harsh delivery.

2. Never made in public and without permission:

As criticizer doesn’t want to hurt our feelings, he avoids making critical comments in public; criticizer is well aware of chance of misunderstanding; when matter is public. Criticizer generally seeks permission before making any remark; he wants to be assure that we are in listen mindset.

3. Criticizer is ready to give a helping hand

Advocating alone on behavioral changes may not lead to desired results. We may or may not have the required capabilities to bring the change. As criticizer is interested in our wellbeing, he will not mind going for an extra mile and help you to improve. Take office assignments for example, your boss wants you to improve on the given task. He makes some critical comments for improvement and offers to guide you in completing the task successfully.


4. Behavioral or impersonal in nature.

Constructive Criticism is always impersonal by nature. It is made only on behavioral grounds; criticizer assures you that his intention is only behavioral improvement not hurting feelings. You may hear phrases like, “Please don’t take it otherwise”.

5. It is specific.

Constructive criticism is detailed and specific. Criticizer makes it clear: why and how we can improve. His explanation may or may not appeal us, but we become aware of areas of improvement; it is good for development.

6. It is offered in a gentle voice.

Everyone knows that criticism hurts; everyone has experienced it. While offering constructive criticism criticizer keeps it in mind and tend to avoid hurting receiver’s feeling. He chooses a sympathetic and gentle tone to deliver his advice.

It is important to note that parents advice and criticism may not include all the features of constructive criticism, but their intention is benevolent. Their advice may be wrapped in bitter voice, but it should not be mistaken for destructive criticism.


How to deal with criticism: destructive criticism

Our general first response in matter of criticism is to defend ourselves by explaining the situation or we may choose to counterattack the criticizer. “How dare the man insulted me?” is a common thought.

Is explaining or reacting aggressively the right solution to tackle destructive criticism. No, I think it does the opposite. If we try to explain our situation to destructive criticizer, he has won in his attempt to disparage us; additionally, he sees it as an opportunity to create pressure on us. On the other hand, if we react aggressively, we lose the game, because we lost our control; it is similar to teasing; more you react, more people tease you. Better solution would be to thank the criticizer for his time and effort for his feedback and we felt sorry for him. This light weighted humor will tell the criticizer that his attempt is futile and he is not going to disturb you with his malignant attempts.

The best advice I can offer about destructive criticism is to delete it from mind as soon as you receive it.


But, the question is how? Destructive criticism is nagging; it sticks to our mind for longer time, reminding us again and again of the bitter words that mitigate our self-esteem. In such situation, remember that thoughts become powerful when we give them power by pondering over them. If you try not to think over the destructive criticism, it will have to move away. Criticism might ping you few times, try to bring all the negative energy with it, but if you decide to consciously avoid indulging in pondering over negative thoughts, it will go away.

#LifeStyle: Thoughts become powerful when we give them power by pondering over them. Click To Tweet

We don’t get any benefit by getting depressed thinking about bitter words. Destructive criticism contains nothing for a wise mind. It is in our best interest to forget about it, and do not engage in any altercations.


How to deal with criticism : constructive criticism

Despite being positive in intention, we often mistreat constructive criticism by either ignoring it or defending us by counterattack; In either situations, we are unwilling to accept our shortcoming and improve upon them.

When we identify the criticism as constructive criticism, [sociallocker]logical course of action should be to first accept that it is for our benefit; the intentions are benevolent. We should consider the criticizer as assistant in our development. No one is perfect, so do we. We have our weaknesses and shortcomings. Constructive criticism is an opportunity to improve our skill sets, and become a better person than today.


But, if we use defensive arguments or counterattack as a means to remain in our comfort zone; we will never grow to our actual potential. Our defences will discourage our well wishers; sooner or later, they will retreat back because if we don’t care about our development, why should they?

Few questions comes to mind, when we are ready to accept our weaknesses and ready to amend them. Should we accept all the suggestions of constructive criticism? Should we follow the path that our criticizer advocates?

It depends.

To decide what suggestion we should include in our resolution list, we need to first do the cost-benefit analysis. Each change on our part requires time and effort, and despite all arduous efforts, we cannot brings all the desired changes. We need to prioritize what changes we want selectively based on time, resources, and benefits we can ripe from them. [/sociallocker]

The answer, to whether we should follow the path our constructive criticizer advocates, is simple. If we believe that criticizer possess the required skill set and expertise to guide us, we should follow him; on contrary, we should take the suggestions in positive spirit as directions and seek expert advice to work on them.


Note: at last it is important to understand that a criticism may be partly constructive and partly destructive. More often, when we receive criticism and observe, we will find characteristics of both positive and negative criticism. So instead of classifying a criticism solely constructive or destructive, we should rather grasp the constructive part of criticism and should leave destructive part. It is not a skill to master easily, but with conscious efforts and patience, we can learn it. Benefits are well worth the efforts.

#LifeStyle :Instead of classifying a criticism solely constructive or destructive, grasp positives leaving rest. Click To Tweet
How to deal with criticism: Constructive and Destructive
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