It can be hard to handle criticism. We all know we need to do it; it's crucial to getting better as a human being. But not all criticism is created equal. In fact, some critics shouldn't even get a seat at the table.

It's important to set criteria for those who make the cut and mentally dismiss the rest. Your boss, key teammates, mentors--they probably all make the cut. Bob in accounting or that random LinkedIn dude who gets his anger on via acidic comments on your posts--they can pound salt. 

But that said, it doesn't make it any easier when our undeserving, likely uninformed critics are taking swings at us. Especially when research from Case Western Reserve University psychologist Roy Baumeister shows that we are four times more likely to remember criticism than we are praise, and that it takes five positive events to make up for the psychological impact of just one negative event.

Well, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently provided scintillating perspective. He was giving the commencement speech recently for Tulane University when he shared this absolute gem:

"We don't build monuments to trolls."


Oh, that's a keeper.

So take that, Twitter. And anyone else who spews negative energy in an attempt to tear you down.

Ignore the boos--they usually come from the cheap seats. That's the essence of what Cook is saying, and he couldn't be more right. Trolls and critics with no right to be such add no value in their attempts to build up their own misguided value. No one admires or appreciates their work, so why pay them any due? Their acidic sentiments and efforts to shatter your self-confidence come from their own lack of it.

So by not giving due to trolls, you dissolve their power. But that doesn't mean you can underestimate the negative, stinging, even debilitating power of criticism. So it's worth employing multiple tactics to help you handle it. Here are four more ways to overturn any fear of criticism you might have.

1. Anything worth doing attracts compliments and criticism.

The sad truth is that what others risk by sitting back and taking pot shots at you is miniscule compared to what you're risking by putting yourself out there.

But you can't let that stop you from doing things that are worthy and worthwhile. As Apple's Cook said, we don't build monuments to trolls, but we do for those who dare to make an imprint. Which brings us to the next point.

2. Seek imprints and improvement, not approval.

It's about making an impact, not letting some naysayer impact you. It's about becoming a better version of yourself than you were yesterday, not letting someone irrelevant define who you are today.

In fact, let criticism feed you, not your insecurities.

By far, the one thing that most accelerated my upward trajectory in the corporate world is when I stopped yearning for approval from others and living in fear of their criticism. I began to soar when I instead focused on using my unique gifts to make a difference on things that mattered.

3. Recall when criticism pushed you in the right direction (and not over the cliff).

At some point in your past, someone criticized you in a way you could receive and reflect on. And it surely helped you become better. Think of that time. Assume it could happen again. It will help reframe the criticism as nuggets of veiled wisdom.

Some of my best self-improvements have come post-begrudging consideration of stinging criticism I received. To keep that sting from swelling and remaining painful, sometimes you have to accept it and put it to use.

4. Avoiding criticism is what makes you weaker, not the criticism itself.

Race car legend Mario Andretti said this of the key to winning races without crashing: "Don't look at the wall, your car goes where your eyes go." Similarly, if you focus on the criticism you receive, that wall on the side, you'll veer off course and lose sight of your end goal. This is what happens when you focus on the criticism instead of the conclusion. Run your race without regard to the criticism from the stands. I can promise you, on your deathbed, you will not say, "Whew, I avoided criticism."

So the next time someone slings unwarranted criticism your way, remember they'll never be immortalized in bronze. Then just go for the gold.

Published on: May 23, 2019
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