Do This When You’re Blindsided by Criticism or Facing Disapproval

Woman wagging her fingerA couple of days ago, a friend and I were talking about her business and the topic of criticism–and how to respond to it–came up.

Her client was complaining about freelance work she’d already completed, insisting that it wasn’t good enough (even though it fulfilled the terms of the contracted agreement).  My friend was stressing out because she didn’t know how to respond.

In a recent article on at the Middle Finger Project, Ash Ambirge lays out a killer tip for saying tough things with power and finesse.

Getting blindsided by the criticism and the disapproval of others can be one of the most frustrating experiences.

You Have Two Choices

Really, when it comes down to criticism, you have two choices–respond, or don’t.  Why does the disapproval of others create so much anxiety for us?

Here’s the deal: most of us care way too much about the opinions and expectations of others.  I know. I’m a recovering people-pleaser.

I’m not advocating that you treat others with disrespect or unkindness. I do want you to be able to recognize the blessing–yes, blessing–that the criticism of others offers you, and be well-equipped to respond, if you choose to do so.

You all know that it’s about self-reliance and practical implementation more than simple self-help aphorisms here at True Spiritual Awakening, so let me give you some new thoughts to consider and then some helpful hints for dealing with the criticism of others.

3 Steps to Follow When Faced By Criticism

1. Stop – Stop and take a breath. Have you been conditioned to react when someone criticizes you? Do you get angry, defensive and aggressive?  Or do you withdraw and try to protect yourself?

Take a moment to recognize your own pattern.  I tend to be rather non-confrontational, so my natural conditioning was to back down and to avoid conflict until it blew up in my face. Even then, sometimes I would try to ignore it, hoping it would go away.  It rarely does.

I’ve found that it’s better to face a situation directly and choose my reaction consciously. I feel much more empowered and the stress and drama generally drains quickly from the situation once it’s been properly addressed.

2. Reflect – Take time to observe what’s happening. Ask yourself smart questions. What is really going on? What is this really about?

Hint: Don’t always believe the first answer your mind presents to you.

Ask, Why am I triggered?  What is this bringing up for me? Why does this matter so much for me?

And the power question: Is this something I have any control over?

We all want people to like us, to think we’re competent, to think that we have things under control. Taking a moment to stop and reflect on the criticism you’re receiving allows you the time to engage your logic before you respond.

When emotion and logic are locked in conflict,
emotion always wins.
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Just as you can’t reason with a person who’s distraught, terrified, or angry, if you are triggered emotionally, your logical mind will be disengaged and you’ll have no objectivity with which to provide a rational response–even if you’d wanted to.

3. Respond – As we’ve said, to respond or not to respond, that is the question!  Bad Shakespeare rip-offs aside, this is the important choice that always lies before you when you’re confronted by the criticism or disapproval of others.

Here are some points to think about…


A few months ago, a critical message popped up in my inbox on the Facebook page.  It took my completely off-guard.


At first I thought it was just a “spam-bot” of some sort, so I responded.  He replied with even more sarcasm and disapproval, so I decided to let it go at that point.  It was a quick lesson that you can’t please everyone.

It also gave me a wonderful opportunity to stop, reflect and the tweetable above came to me. I realized that to do the work that I feel that I am meant to do in the world, I have to become confident with my internal voice and comfortable enough with the disapproval of others that I could continue on the path that I know is right for me.

Criticism will blindside you at some point in your life. Be ready for it. Remember the three steps: Stop, Reflect, Respond (or don’t).  You have the power of response in your own life. This is the meaning of response-ability.

How you treat yourself

Most of us receive our response conditioning when we’re children. We develop habit patterns of thought and behavior that may or may not serve us as we mature into adulthood.  The criticism and disapproval expressed by others is the perfect opportunity to take stock.

Next time you face criticism, instead of flying into a rage, or instead of retreating from criticism, take a minute to take charge of yourself and your emotions.  Look at your natural tendency and ask, does this response/reaction serve me well?  If not, you have the power to change it–right there in that very moment!

One of my favorite philosophers is the psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl.  He said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

How Do You Handle Criticism?

Do you handle criticism well?  What programmed behavior or thought patterns have you recognized become engaged when you are criticized?  What helpful hints can you share for handling criticism or the disapproval of others in an effective way?

Photo Credit: Lara604


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Tree on a rock pillar – Lake Superior coast (MI)

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