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Handling Criticism Page Title
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Handling Criticism

Criticism sayingHandling criticism has much in common with handling failure, and indeed, criticism and failure frequently present themselves together. Thus, when you fail to do something properly it is possible that you will be criticised for it as a result.

The natural immediate response to criticism is to feel discouraged and unhappy. However, as with failure, criticism has a very positive side. In the first place, if you are being criticised it may well be an indication that you have taken a risk and chosen to tackle something which is a challenge to you. Receiving such criticism may be infinitely preferable to being praised for something which is simple and predictable. Secondly, as with failure, criticism may be regarded as valuable feedback and a necessary part of the learning process. Unless your tutor criticises deficiencies in your essay you are unlikely to go on to better things.

A few further comments on criticism:

  • In some situations criticism may be unjustified. (For example, note that even musical geniuses like Mozart and Beethoven often received bad reviews!) If you feel that this is the case, you should try to respond courteously, but assertively. This may be difficult, especially if the other person is your senior.
  • Where criticism is justified and presented to you in a constructive manner, you should express gratitude to your critic and seek to take appropriate corrective action. This may in some circumstances require you to make an apology.
  • It can be difficult to deal with destructive, hostile criticism, and this can be especially hurtful to somebody who has low self-esteem. The main aim is to remain assertive and not mirror the critic's behaviour by responding aggressively. Since destructive criticism often arises from jealousy and spitefulness, the best policy may be to ignore it.


Aim to develop a positive attitude to any criticism which comes your way. See it as a way of gaining self-understanding and as a contributor to your personal development. Unjust and destructive criticism can make serious demands on your inter-personal skills, and it can therefore be worthwhile developing these skills by attending assertiveness and other similar workshops. You should also seek to nurture your self-esteem, so that you are less susceptible to the negative effects of criticism.

Further Information

For further information on handling criticism see:

Handling Criticism (Utah State University)
Handling Criticism at Work
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Page last modified: 19 July 2012
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