How to Make the Most of Criticism

Merriam-Webster’s official definition of the word criticize is “to consider the merits and demerits of and judge accordingly.” What the definition doesn’t elaborate on is what exactly can be subjected to criticism: ourselves, appearances, clothes, books, movies, music, television shows, the list never really ends.

Criticism is something that people don’t like to hear or take. Psychology Today lists one of the main reasons why people don’t like to be criticized is that it “devalues our worth,” which can negatively affect a person. Experts also attribute criticism to only focusing on discouraging statements, such as “you’re not good enough,” “this could be better,” and so on.

It isn’t hard to see that criticism is present in the world, but not only limited to face-to-face interaction. The Internet and social media makes it possible for people to get criticized not just from their friends and family, but from thousands of strangers around the globe. Everything from blog posts, Facebook posts and Twitters tweets provide a platform for hundreds of criticizing comments to be posted. Comments from people that may not even know the person, out there for the whole world to view.

The recent popular app Sarahah has provided a more direct way of criticizing individuals. The whole focus of the app is for its users to send anonymous “feedback” to their friends and acquaintances. While the prompt states “Leave a constructive message,” it’s not surprising to see that some people have instead been taking advantage of the anonymity by sending negative and discouraging messages.

So is it possible to turn a negative aspect into a positive one? The answer is yes, it is possible. “Constructive criticism” is seen as an opportunity to get feedback from others about what can be improved. For example, if someone is criticizing your writing, instead of reacting negatively toward the person, realize that they are commenting on your work, not you as a person. Take the chance to ask them what they would do differently, seeking their perspective on the situation. Some of their suggestions could prove to be useful and might even challenge you to think differently for future projects and ideas. The same mindset can be applied in similar situations.

Constructive criticism can be an important factor in professional development.

For example, most of us have put together that first résumé for the job or internship search, only to have a career center counselor or other contact cover it with edits – too much spacing, not enough words, and so on. But this type of feedback shouldn’t be considered discouraging, rather, they’re offering advice on how to make your résumé more attractive to potential employers, improving your chances of landing the first job or interview.

Another example of constructive criticism in the professional development world are job performance reviews. Most jobs have a 90-day review and an annual yearly review. It’s a chance for you to sit down one-on-one with your supervisor and go over your accomplishments, goals and areas that you could use improvement on. This is a great opportunity to get feedback on your work habits and help identify your strengths and weaknesses. While it’s not always fun to focus on the improvement areas, getting honest feedback could help you identify habits that might be affecting your overall health, not just work performance.

While it might not be possible to control how much criticism there is in the world, choosing how to perceive it can help turn it into something positive.

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