Fiona Coyne and Simon Cowell are famous for dishing it out but, in the real world, criticism hurts and it can be hard to bounce back from a cutting comment. Take this short quiz to find out how well you cope with criticism.
Whatever the reason, criticism of any kind can be a bitter pill to swallow. Criticism can be very hurtful, especially when it’s badly delivered. For many, criticism is related to rejection, because it’s often delivered by an authority figure. This triggers uncomfortable memories – which may go back to childhood – of being scolded, bullied or humiliated. You can’t avoid criticism, particularly in this day and age, when so many people get criticised in the public eye – whether they deserve it or not.
What’s more important is how you react to it. The way you deal with criticism can make the difference between a passing remark you forget very quickly, and something more hurtful. To find out how criticism affects you, try our quiz:
Do you let other people get you down?
1. You’re called in for your annual work review – but the reports aren’t as good as you’d hoped. Do you:
- Vow to do better (+10)
- Dispute your boss’s opinion (+7)
- Feel hurt and foolish for having thought you were doing well (+5)
2. A friend jokes that you’re a lot more laid-back about housework than she is. You react by:
- Explaining you have different priorities (+6)
- Seething, then having a huge clear out! (+3)
- Thanking her for the compliment (+10)
3. Your mom makes snide remarks about how you bring up your kids. You:
- Let your anger build up until you explode (+2)
- Let it go – all mothers are like that (+8)
- Explain how she’s hurt you, and see less of her if she doesn’t let up (+5)
4. Your partner playfully points out you’ve put on a few kilos (which, sadly, is true). You:
- Take the hint and dig out the diet books (+10)
- Get defensive and retaliate (+3)
- Suggest he helps you by cutting back too (+7)
5. Out with friends, the chat turns to politics. One friend’s husband shoots down your views – you:
- Blush – you’ve been made to look small (+2)
- Shout louder than him until he backs down (+5)
- Sit back and let him ramble on (+8)
6. While clothes shopping with a friend, she rolls her eyes at everything you pick for yourself. You:
- Buy them anyway – it’s your choice (+10)
- Decide she’s jealous because she’s broke (+3)
- Ask her what she’d choose for you (+6)
How did you do?
Now add up your scores and check out our advice.
25 points or less
Criticism makes you feel vulnerable and defensive – you can’t bear being thought less of. Build your self-esteem with assertiveness training.
You see the difference between thoughtless remarks and considered comments, and have the confidence
to stand your ground if necessary.
45 points or more
You’re so secure that criticism seldom makes a lasting impression. Your self-assurance is all very well, but watch it doesn’t tip over into arrogance
6 simple steps to help you handle criticism
- Take a moment for the initial sting of the criticism to wear off. Take a few deep breaths before you do anything – it’s important not to react until you feel calm.
- Ask for specifics. ‘If the criticism’s valid, the critic should be able to back up what they’re saying and you can respond to that,’ says shyness expert, Walter Friedman.
- Who’s making the criticism? Is it someone who has some authority on the subject? If not, they might be putting you down to boost their own self-esteem.
- Ask yourself if the criticism is fair. ‘If so, a comment like “Okay, I accept that,” gives you back some power,’ says Walter Friedman. ‘If not, give your reasons for disagreeing firmly and calmly.’
- Use ‘fogging’ to deflect the criticism. Psychologist Alice Muir suggests: ‘Respond to their comments using non-committal replies like: “Hmm, I suppose you could have a point”.’
- Don’t use counter-criticism to make yourself feel better. Listing their failings in return might be satisfying, but no one benefits!