I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again…my love language is Words of Affirmation. This means, very simply, that what you say to me matters. If you tell me I’m doing a great job or something positive, it is like handing me a $100 bill – it fills me up and I’ll be doing great for hours and hours. But, the flipside is also true. If you tell me I messed up or did something wrong, I am instantly defeated. My day is ruined. I might as well go back to bed and start the day over.
Recently, I’ve been trying out this writing thing. The latest part of this process for me has included submitting guest posts to other blogs in order to feature my writing there in hopes that more and more people will visit my blog. This has been tough because it opens me up for criticism. If I simply post a bad article on my blog, you can just click away from it and choose to never visit the blog again. But, by submitting these articles to other blogs, I am asking them to tell me whether or not my writing is good enough to be featured on their blog.
In the last month, I have had the great fortune of having four different articles get published: Catalyst, Faith Driven Business, Dan Erickson, and Life Letter Café. But, as I’m sure you can imagine, I have been turned down by a few too. The latest was an article for a pretty big time magazine. And the criticism I received did not just happen once, but happened twice.
The first article that I submitted didn’t quite hit the target…and they told me that. It stung, but I appreciated the feedback and the opportunity to submit another article on a topic that they supplied me. I did that and never heard back. This week, the magazine was published and my article wasn’t in there. In fact, the article that they gave me to write about was there…but written by someone else. Ouch.
If you’re like me, you know that criticism comes often. As a pastor, I hear criticism often. As a husband, I hear criticism often. As a father, I hear criticism often. As a writer, I hear criticism often. And not all criticism is bad. Some of it is necessary and some of it is helpful. But, the way we choose to react to criticism is the key to how it impacts us. Here are 3 ways that you can choose to react to the criticism you receive:
- Curse it. You can get angry and maybe even confront the person who is criticizing you. This most often happens when the criticism crosses the line and becomes a personal attack rather than an attempt to help you get better.
It sounds something like “you’re a bad person” or “you never do anything right.” Cursing criticism can also happen after a long day or a long week where you are wore down and/or tired. There’s maybe a place for this, but it very rarely ever turns out well and it opens you up for more criticism.
- Ignore it. This is when there is really no reaction to the criticism. You don’t get angry, you don’t act based on it, you don’t allow it to impact you at all. This would happen after you’ve considered the person who is criticizing and determined that they expertise or position where their criticism has value. You hear it and move on.
There is definitely a place for ignoring criticism. Not all criticism is helpful and if you listen and react to all criticism you will go crazy and will become a slave to the criticism. Ignoring criticism, however, takes some skill. You must master the ability and the presence to know who to listen to and who to not listen to. I’ve had plenty of times where I’ve ignored the wrong people and it ended up hurting me…and them.
- Use it. Most of the criticism we receive, especially from those who love us and care about us, is meant to help us. Even if it’s not delivered in the most positive way, the person is trying to help you get better. And, although it will probably sting at first, it’s important to find the things that will help you ultimately do and be better.
I would also add that my reactions to criticism can contain more than one of these three. I may first curse the criticism (and the person) and then, after I calm down, use the criticism. Or, I may begin using the criticism only to find out that I should have ignored it. But, at the end of the day, it is up to you to choose how you will react.
How do you handle criticism? Are you able to figure out whether you should curse it, ignore it, or use it? What else would you add to this list?