The worlds full of critics Deal with it

20 Sep 2018 | by Russell Dalton

Most of us feel threatened and hurt when other criticise us and feel anxious and inadequate when criticising others.  These are normal reactions and are caused by the ineffective way criticising is usually carried out.

Before you can effectively criticise someone else, you have to be ready to accept criticism of yourself.  The following techniques assist in protecting yourself from the effects of bad criticism and give a concise guide to the best way to give criticism (i.e. criticism that will be acted upon by the person receiving it).

PROTECTION – Dealing with Criticism without getting hurt


The best defence is to turn criticism into Problem Solving.  Critics often attack the person not the problem.  Some people operate on the principle the more people who witness when they humiliate someone, the greater the increase in status.  We all need the skills of ignoring personal attacks and absorbing aggression in order to get at and deal with, the underlying problem



Listen – Acknowledge

Listen – show the critic that you are listening by using the active listening skills of nodding, paralanguage, facial expression and language.Acknowledge – specifically, confirm that you and the critic are discussing the same topic.


Find something to AGREE with

In doing this surprise the critic by taking the moral high ground, this can be done by using the technique of FOGGING.

Fogging is a skill that teaches the acceptance of manipulative criticism by calmly acknowledging the possibility that there may be some truth in what your critic says whilst allowing you to remain the judge of what you do.

This allows you to receive criticism comfortably without becoming anxious or defensive.  At the same time you are not giving any reward to a critic trying to manipulate you.

An example of fogging is:

Critic:                           “You are being very unfair.”

Reply:                          “I can see how you might feel I am unfair”

Rather than:                “Unfair, of course I’m not unfair, it’s you, you are oversensitive”

Do not:

Comply with the critic’s definition of you as a person. (Your duty is to understand criticism, not to agree with it).


Define the problem.  Ask questions to elicit specific criticism.


In order to define the problem you actively prompt criticism.  If the information is helpful you use it, and it if is manipulative you exhaust it; get it out of the way.


This process allows you to seek out criticism about yourself more comfortably while prompting the critic to express honest negative feelings and improve communication.


In defining the problem focus on yourself and not one your critic.  If you focus on your critic, you will get a defensive reaction that will hamper communications.

For instance, you might say:

“What is it about me or my work that is wrong?”

Your attitude should be one of actively encouraging criticism.  Do this both verbally and non-verbally.  You will elicit feelings from your critic more effectively if you convey the message:

 “I would like this information, I want to her more”

Specify the criticism

Listen closely to the words the critic uses and help focus on what is wrong.

Victim:             “You say I am dressed badly, what is it that is not right?”

Critic:               “Just look at your suit, you haven’t pressed it in a month.”

Victim:             “Then it’s my suit not being pressed that makes me badly dressed?”

Critic:               “Yes…….that’s one thing.”



Analyse the criticism 

Continue to ask specifying questions using:

Who                 What                Where             When              

How                 How much       How many       Which one

 “On which occasion was my suit not pressed correctly?”

Exhaust the criticism

“Is there anything else about my suit that is wrong?”

Listen for the ‘I’ statements

Remember criticism comes from someone else’s value system.  They may be unaware that their subjective value system (prejudice) is operating.

Behind most pieces of criticism is a statement of personal opinion – I do not like it.”



Offer or ask for a solution to the problem

Get the critic to say clearly what it is they want.  Do not be a mind reader and make unwarranted assumptions.  Be specific.



Utilise the lessons learned in receiving criticism.


Establish communication

Is this the time and the place? – Do not criticise in public.

Check the facts before criticising:

Critic:               “You were late.”

Victim:             “No, the boss told me not to come in till 9:30, as I worked till midnight last night.”



Define the problem; be specific

Stick to the problem, do not attack the person.


Identify a solution

Try to ‘dovetail’ your outcome and the other person’s outcome so that you have a win/win result.

Get a firm commitment to the agreed course of action:  “Will you do that?”

In conclusion, conflict and criticism sometimes come hand in hand, but knowing how to cope with criticism when it is given and how to give constructive criticism will ensure communication channels are clear and professional relationships are maintained.  Additionally, we will ensure that everyone is motivated.  Be open to criticism but don’t be affected by it.  Criticism is meant to help you be a better person, so learn from it.

‘The trouble with us is that we’d rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism’

Norman Vincent Peale