The truth is that almost no one likes to be criticized. It hurts a little less when the criticism is constructive, but receiving criticism of any type implies that you did something wrong or inadequately.

Many have become accustomed to the pain and some even relish it. They recognize that criticism can be helpful for growth. Still, who says it and how it's said can make a big difference in how well you receive it in the moment. Don't let poor delivery rob you of the useful kernels of truth. Here are 6 healthy ways to approach criticism from my Inc. colleagues and me.

1. Keep an internal file.

I get a sense when criticism is coming. It may be because I asked for it, or I can feel a situation warranting it. When criticism comes my way I have a special mode. I breathe, open myself up and heighten my awareness. I tamp down the inner voice and absorb the data as openly as possible. I do my best not to react on the spot, choosing to take time to analyze the feedback. Once I have processed the information, it is my choice how and when to respond in a way that best serves both me and the critic to move forward.

2. See criticism as data.

Feedback is just data, and the more data we have, the better. So strip away the framing you apply to the source and consider the feedback based solely on its merits. Think of it this way: the more you listen, and the more people you are willing to listen to, the more data you have at your disposal to make smart decisions. And don't forget, people who don't care don't criticize or praise... so be glad people care enough to tell you what they think. --Owner's Manual

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3. Take criticism with a grain of salt.

Every piece of criticism I ever receive sears itself into my brain forever. That's human nature. We evolved to pay more attention to what upsets us than what makes us happy. So I worry more about paying too much attention to criticism than paying too little. It's so easy to make decisions based on avoiding complaints rather than taking the bold steps that will move you forward. Ask yourself first what the motivation was for the criticism--to help you or make you feel small? If the intent is good, is the criticism legitimate? Do you think others would agree with it? If all three answers are yes, only then should you take it seriously. --The Laid Back Leader

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4. Don't get defensive.

While I may not always agree with the criticism I receive (and as a writer, I do receive plenty!), I make a point of listening to it. It's important not to get all defensive about criticism. Just listen, make some mental (or even written) notes, thank the person offering the criticism, and then decide if there are any lessons to beapplied moving forward. If so, great. If not, then forget it. --The Management Guy

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5. Be honest with yourself.

Just because someone is brash doesn't mean their feedback is invalid. (Think Gordon Ramsay on Master Chef). If your tendency is to negate criticism because of the way it's delivered, remember that it doesn't serve you to do so. I like to evaluate feedback by asking myself these questions: Do I generally respect the individual offering the feedback? Are they qualified to address the topic? Is there any history of others giving the same, or similar, advice? Have I intuitively known that I need to take a deeper look at this all along? Use this strategy to help you choose whether to discard, or further evaluate, what may be valuable words of wisdom in an unpleasant disguise. --The Successful Soloist

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6. Find the useful nuggets.

Criticism is part of the journey to building a successful company. It can be especially difficult to take when it comes from a person or source that you may not completely respect, but don't let that cause you to be closed-minded. Look for the nuggets of useful information that come from the feedback--there is always something you should pay attention to, even from your least qualified critic. And pay special attention to patterns in the feedback. When you hear the same criticism from multiple sources, it's something you should seriously consider. Filter these patterns through your own domain expertise to come up with potential ways to address the criticism--don't expect your critics to provide the way forward. --Lean Forward

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