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How to Deal With Criticism

Submitted by on June 25, 2014 – 8:05 am 80 Comments

ID-100260522Whether in money or in any other area of life, the one constant seems to be criticism, and so learning how to deal with criticism is, I find, a crucial factor to a joyful life.

When we started this blog, I knew that, to some extent, we’d be opening ourselves up to criticism.  We feel blessed that 99% of the people who comment on this blog are supportive and work to leave us constructive criticism, but as I’ve learned from many of the wonderful bloggers out there – and experienced myself – there’s always that 1% whose goal, it seems, is to tear you into little pieces with their nasty, negative jabs.   And it’s funny how that small percent of “Negative Nellies” can have such a big impact on one’s psyche.

When we first started blogging, the nasty criticisms would really get to me.  I’d spend days beating myself up for what some random person said about what an idiot/liar/dummy/loser I was.

I’d wonder “Are they right?  Am I really that bad?”

Some angry person would start the verbal abuse, and then I’d continue it, all on my own, until I learned to buck up and snap out of it.  After a year and a half of letting verbal bullies push me around, I’ve learned a thing or two about criticism, and thought I’d share these thoughts with you today.

Learn to Know the Difference Between “Good” Criticism and “Bad” Criticism

Not all criticism is bad.  In fact, most of the criticism we’ve received on the site here truly has been intended to help us along.  People want to make sure we’re seeing our money management from an objective perspective.  Thank you for that, my friends.

When dealing with criticism in your own life, as you start to analyze it, you’ll likely find two groups of critics: the helpful critic, and the bitter critic.

The Helpful Critic will gently, yet honestly, bring up a pattern or habit in your life that may (or may not) be hindering you in some way.

The Bitter Critic will, on the other hand, use hurtful, mean words and tones in an attempt to “cut you down to size”.

It’s crucial when learning to deal with criticism that you learn the difference between these two types of critics, because they need to be handled in two different ways.

Handling Criticism

With advice from a Helpful Critic, it’s important to step back and analyze that advice or criticism objectively.  Is the criticism valid?  Is there something that you can learn from it or change that will make your life better?

With advice from a Bitter Critic, however, it’s important to do that same analysis.  In spite of the poor choice of words or the mean tone, you can truly use the words of the Bitter Critic to help propel you to a better life if you keep the focus on the message instead of the way it was presented.

But this is where the similarities end, because, more than anything, it’s vital that you choose to stand solid and not let the negative, mean, or irrelevant words of any critic get you down.  How?

1.  Remind yourself that no one’s opinion of you really matters other than your own and the opinions of those closest to you.  If we try to please everyone, we won’t please anyone.

2.  Acknowledge the fact that the words of a Bitter Critic really arise out of a hurting heart.  Angry, mean words come from hurt, angry people, and they’re likely not hurt or angry at anything you’ve done, especially if it’s a random person that you don’t necessarily have a relationship with.  Work to view the Bitter Critic with a heart of pity and sadness for them, instead of focusing on what they’ve said to you.

3.  Overcome the criticism with positive self-talk.  This may sound corny, but it really works.  When Bitter Critics hit us on the blog, we remind ourselves of what we have done and how far we’ve come.  We pat ourselves on the back for even beginning the journey out of debt in the first place, and for all of the cuts we’ve made in our budget.  We also remind ourselves that our value-based spending may not jive with someone else’s view of value-based spending, and that’s okay, because the whole point of value-based spending is that you make your purchases based on what YOU value most, not based on what someone else thinks you should value most.

Learning positive ways about how to deal with criticism is so important in today’s world, where we have access to share our thoughts and opinions – negative or positive – with millions of people.

Choose today to handle the criticism that comes your way in a format that will lift you up and onward toward your goals.

How do you handle criticism?  Which tools for handling criticism have you found most effective?

 

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80 Comments »

  • Frank Moreau says:

    I have found that when many people fail to follow their own dreams they try to bring the dreams of others down as well. These people are best ignored.

    You are right in that other people will give us guidance on our path and we should take their criticism as just that…guidance.

    A very good article. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Frank – lots of wisdom in that first line!! What a profound statement – thank you for sharing, and for reading. 🙂

  • Andrew says:

    Great tips. I will admit that I am really bad at dealing with criticism. Even constructive criticism is tough for me to take…at the moment it is given. Inside I know that it may be warranted and I do an analysis as to whether I need to improve whatever it was that was criticized, but I need to work on my initial reaction to criticism.

    • Laurie says:

      I have absolutely had to work on this as well. Not sure if it’s an oldest child thing or what. I am improving in this area though, albeit slowly. 🙂

  • I was just watching an episode of The Profit and I noticed a huge difference in business owners who are able to improve their businesses and succeed: their ability to take constructive criticism. I began to think how I take criticism, and discovered that my ability to grow and lead is truly dependent on it.

  • Good post Laurie! Unfortunately we’re in a day and age of the internet making it incredibly easy for those that are just unhappy with life to tear others down. That said, I tend to take a similar approach and step back to analyze if they’re on to something. I’ll even ask Nicole about it as she is usually not as idealistically distorted as I am. 🙂 As you said, it’s impossible to please everyone all the time so I try to view things through the paradigm of what I’m trying to accomplish while also realizing the fact that there are definitely times I can learn from other vantage points.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, funny. John, your post at Yahoo on healthy eating was, in part, the inspiration for this post. It’s funny how people can find reasons to bash the most harmless and helpful of articles.

  • Michelle says:

    I love this post. Lately, I have been feeling bogged down about the criticism. I have anonymous people telling me that I’m not a real person, that I actually am a homeless man, and more. I even had someone tell me the other day that I am a “deal showoff,” and that I think I’m better than others because of the deals that I can find. LOL I barely talk about deals so what they said actually hurt.

    It’s sad that some people find it so entertaining to waste their time hurting others instead of bettering their own lives.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, Michelle, seeing you in that wedding dress, I’m pretty sure you’re not a homeless man. 🙂 I struggle at times with feeling bogged down by the criticism too, but then I ask myself why I’m giving so much time and energy to the words of people I don’t even know and don’t even matter in my life. 😉

  • I’ve only really had one “mean” comment on my blog and I decided not to allow it to be published and not to take what they said to heart. I can see how mean/negative comments could bring you down, but I’m glad you’re not letting them. You guys are doing great and you’ve really changed your mindset so you won’t ever end up back in more debt after you achieve your goals.

    • Laurie says:

      Thank you so much, Kayla, for your encouraging words. Good for you for not publishing your mean comment. The more you learn to deal with them now, the less they’ll bother you as your site grows.

  • Aldo R @ MDN says:

    Some people are just life trolls and the have no other purpose than to put other people down. I’ve learned to ignore those people and concentrate on valuable opinions. I welcome constructive criticism because I love to learn how I can improve. If you have some constructive advice, I listen, if you are just being a troll, you are dismissed. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, “Aint’ nobody got time for that.” Funny, Aldo. My 8 year old says that all the time. 🙂 But it’s SO true.

  • You are so right! Most bitter critics have deeper issues. Doesn’t make them any less right sometimes, but I do try to think of them from a compassionate angle.

    I also think sometimes folks that come off as bitter critical may not completely realize how their words are taken… especially on the internet! Without facial expressions and body language, conveying compassion is tough.

    Nothing like a good emoticon though to brighten things up! 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Awesome point about the internet skewing our words sometimes – I think we need to be careful to assume the positive instead of the negative in situations like that. Had to laugh about the emoticon thing: my kids (who are still quite young) use the steaming-mad-red-faced-angry emoticon guy often when emailing each other. Going to have to break that habit before they get out into the real world. 🙂

  • Definitely a wise take on criticism, Laurie!

    I’ve been lucky to encounter very little of it with my own blog, but I remember the first time I wrote for a really big blog, I got quite a few comments of the Bitter Critic kind. It definitely made me take a step back and wonder if I was a horrible person… but I think you’re right and a lot of Bitter Critic’s have their own hurt hearts and your piece is just poking them in it a little too hard.

    • Laurie says:

      So sorry that you had to deal with that, Mel!! Those bigger sites definitely get more than their fair share of nasty commenters, don’t they.

  • There are always those out there who love to bring people down. They don’t like to see others successful, so they belittle them. I used to get irritated, but now I just move on. It just confirms I am doing something they wish they could do.

  • E.M. says:

    I haven’t really received much criticism on my blog, but I know I could deal better with criticism from those around me. Like Andrew, my initial reaction can be bad, but I do eventually take it into consideration and reflect on it. I believe it allows us to grow. Sometimes we can’t be completely objective with ourselves, and we don’t notice certain flaws we have.

    • Laurie says:

      Exactly, E.M. This is where the constructive criticism comes in real handy, and I’m so grateful for those in my life who are kind enough and care enough to leave those constructive criticism comments on the blog.

  • Kassandra says:

    I haven’t experienced it with blogging but it does happen in life overall. I have learned not to fly off of the rails immediately when I am being criticized. Instead I take a moment to soak in what is being said so I can figure out the intent behind the offhand comment. I have learned a few things from sound criticism, the rest I just shrug my shoulders at.

    • Laurie says:

      Yet, LOL. 🙂 Taking a moment to soak it in is a super smart idea, Kassandra. It allows a person to analyze it more objectively and to respond more positively.

  • There’s criticism and there’s criticism. Some of it is just downright verbal abuse. I try to tune it out and avoid it when possible, but it’s pretty much inevitable. I like to use positive self-talk to combat negative opinions.

  • Tania says:

    I almost didn’t start my blog at all because even the thought of someone being critical was so intimidating. I’ll bookmark this article to help me put things in perspective. Thanks!

    • Laurie says:

      Glad you took the leap and started blogging anyway, Tania! The positive results of blogging far outweigh the negative – if you let them. 🙂

  • anna says:

    Great post, Laurie! Though I do agree that Bitter Critic’s delivery could be more tactful than Helpful Critic, I do think it’s a good idea to also take what they’re saying and try to wean some truths in it that might be as helpful as Helpful Critic. I am pretty sensitive to criticism, but do understand that some can be constructive, even though it might come out harsh. It takes me a bit longer (I think it’s natural, defense mechanism), but in any case it makes me a bit tougher and wiser each time around. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, I mentioned that, Anna, because I too believe it’s true. Often times, behind those mean words, there is helpful advice. 🙂

  • It is amazing how much the criticism usually says about the person giving it, rather than the person it’s directed at. I agree that most times you should really pity the Bitter Critic.

    It’s also really hard to avoid disliking the Bitter Critic giving you the feedback, but sometimes it’s helpful to realise they’re not necessarily a bad person. Perhaps they’re going through some tough times or inner turmoil, and are just taking it out on the world. Or perhaps they’re just a bit ignorant.

    Great advice on how to deal with it thought Laurie, and such an important skill to learn since we all have to deal with it at some point. If you’re not been criticised, you’re probably not making a big enough impact 🙂

  • Britnee says:

    I admit, I have a hard time dealing with brutal criticism. The internet is full of “keyboard warriors” that hide behind a computer and just are plain mean. Over the years I have learned to hit the delete button, or ignore them because some of them were so mean it will ruined a good day to be honest. I will beat myself up over someone rude comment. I love constructive criticism. Thanks to my previous job it was actually welcomed. Thank you for writing this post.

    • Laurie says:

      I know what you mean, Britnee – it’s hard to deal with the nastiness sometimes, but it does make one stronger. 🙂

  • I’ve been lucky I guess as far as my blog goes that it’s 99.9% supportive. I think I only received one negative comment that called me a name. 🙂 I still have a hard time dealing with criticism because of being a perfe…recovering perfectionist. 🙂 It’s something I’m working on. On the flip side, I often wonder when it comes to blogs when it’s my place to comment with gentle criticism. Of course personal finance is personal, but occasionally you see someone making decisions you think might hurt them. I wonder when it’s OK to speak up…and how exactly. It’s tricky.

    • Laurie says:

      I think gentle/constructive criticism is absolutely important – we owe it to those we care about to be honest, but then whens and hows of it are definitely tricky. 🙂

  • Ugh! I will never understand why people feel a need to put other people down like this. People in glass houses really shouldn’t throw stones. I used to be much more critical of myself when I received criticism and now I am more thoughtful on how I process it. If it can be constructive than I want to learn from it and grow from it because I believe we all have room for growth. If it is coming from a mean spirited person, then I just have to feel sorry for them that they don’t have enough joy in their lives that they have to put other people down. I think their comments are more a reflection of their own issues than yours.

    • Laurie says:

      “People in glass houses….” Amen! I think you handle the criticism perfectly, Shannon. Take the valid and use it, ignore the invalid. Way to go. 🙂

  • Critics are the worst. Unfortunately there’s always someone who wants to rain on your parade. Those people are usually the loudest (or maybe they just echo in our minds more). It’s taken me a long time to learn to ignore the haters. I’ve gotten better with time, but I still have to admit that sometimes a mean comment really gets to me.

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, it’s definitely a progress, learning to not be hurt by the mean words. Why that nastiness hurts so much, especially from total strangers, I’ll never know.

  • Kim says:

    I try really hard to remember that people who are mean are probably upset because of circumstances in their own lives that they feel they can’t control. What they can control is negativity directed toward other people. Those people who chewed me apart on Yahoo are probably the ones who yell at store clerks and waiters. I’ve never understood the need to tear anyone down, especially someone you don’t know, but it’s part of life I guess. I think you are helping so many people by sharing your journey, warts and all.

    • Laurie says:

      Excellent points, Kim! I agree that it just has to be hurts in their own lives: why else would a person be so mean?

  • I’m afraid I don’t take critics very well. I tend to believe everything bad they say about me, curl up in a ball and quit. Despite all the great things I have accomplished, I still let the nay sayers get inside my head. It is something I work on all the time.

    • Laurie says:

      Oh yeah, that was SO me. I’m getting better, though. Practice makes perfect, Brad – keep up the good work. You’ll learn to brush off those critics sooner or later. 🙂

  • jim says:

    Laurie,
    I think this is the best post you’ve ever made. Good for you!!!!!

    I think I may be an anomaly ’cause seriously, I don’t give a rip 99.99% of the time what anyone thinks of me and any criticism I get just sort of rolls off my back like water on a duck.

    It took me some serious heartbreaks and experiences to get to that point, but I’m there now and I am never going back. Sorry, there are just too many idiots out there (with their own set of problems) that are just looking for a target to lash out at.

    Screw ’em. Don’t have the time, energy or patience for Negative Nellies – just don’t. And you know what? Once you no longer tolerate them, the literally just go away.

    I’m very sorry to hear that you had such a back lash. Let it go, move on and bless you and yours for all of your effort/heart/encouragement you’ve shared with us.

    • Laurie says:

      Jim, that is the wisdom that comes with age, and I’m so glad I’m finally starting to get there. You’re so right, too, about them going away if you brush them off. They’re often looking for someone to fight with, and without a fight, they no longer have purpose. 🙂

  • I don’t take criticism so well, but I understand that sometimes there is good criticism that, even though is hard to swallow, should really be accepted.

    I guess that’s inevitable, as a blogger, not to receive bad criticism from trolls and people who just love spending time online enraging others. They have to be ignored completely – eventually they’ll get bored and move on.

  • I’m guilty because I’m not really good in dealing with criticism. When my friend asked me about my current job and when I told her that I’m a Virtual Assistant, her eyebrows raised and asked me what was that? Well, we could please everyone, as long as I love my job, then I don’t really care about what the people would think.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, I’m amazed at the number of people that think that making money online is a myth, but, Clarisse, we’re laughing all the way to the bank. 🙂

  • Like someone else said, I also choose to either not publish or edit mean comments on my blog. The way I see it, people can bash me all they want. But not on my blog. Somewhere else, anywhere else, sure, but not on my blog which is a reflection of my blood, sweat, and tears.

    • Laurie says:

      I think about that often, Dee. I think it’s important that we all do what works best for us. Some negative comments I delete, if I feel they really have no validity, but if I can see they’re point to an extent, I’m likely to publish it for the sake of argument. 🙂

  • This is something I struggled with when I was a boss. Not only was giving criticism difficult, but so few people took it constructively, no matter how hard I tried to make it worthwhile, that it made it difficult to tell people what I felt.

    So now I try to make sure people know my main goal is to help them succeed….and I warn them that I have a “Gordon Ramsay” personality, and I then quit worrying about it. The world moves fast. If your feelings get hurt so easily that you can’t stay focused on improving your skills to do your best work….that can’t be my problem.

    On accepting feedback, it’s similar. I try to even read into feedback when there is none. Sometimes that makes me a little paranoid, but I’d rather care too much than not care enough.

    • Laurie says:

      Joe, I love Gordon Ramsey. Direct and to the point. What a great way to learn, IF one is willing to listen! And I love your point about just moving on. There are so many better things to spend our time thinking about!

  • Chris says:

    Great article Laurie. I’ve dealt with a lot of criticism in the past with blog and their were times when I would get a really harsh comment and it would throw me off for a week. I’ve grown a much thicker skin since then and if the comment is pretty much negative with no helpful advice I usually just hit delete now since it’s not providing value for my audience.

    • Laurie says:

      I think that’s a terrific strategy, Chris!! If there’s nothing in the comment that is useful, why keep it around? 🙂

  • These are good tips =) It’s important to take petty criticism with a grain of salt or it will make you crazy. Bigger (and legitimate) criticism can be used as a learning experience.

  • Great Advice Laurie. I think you can see a troll from a mile away. The other day my husband was reading some of the comments online after the USA Team came to a Draw against Portugal and they were really nasty. He was reading some of them to me and I told him these people are trolls stop reading all that crap. They have no idea what they’re talking about. Some people just like to talk just to talk without making any sense.

    • Laurie says:

      Same thing happens in most sports arenas, I think. We follow NASCAR somewhat, and I’m always amazed at the nastiness on the blogs by some commenters. Hey, pal, if you can do better than these professional athletes, by all means, have at it. That’s my opinion. 🙂

  • Oh man, I hate this. I always wonder how famous people deal with this. Sometimes people say mean things on a blog, but you’re right. It comes from a place of hurt. I like your suggestion for positive self talk. Even just making a list of all the things you like about yourself/your blog does the trick too!

    • Laurie says:

      Great tip, CCC! The positive things we are/have accomplished always outweigh our mistakes, if we really look objectively. 🙂

  • Kathy says:

    I’ve been criticized a couple of times because of comments I’ve left on blogs. One time I was criticized because I commented about a tenant having a fourth child while owing 5 months back rent. Another writer told me that my husband and I didn’t fight about money because we were rich. Like how would they have a clue about that? I tend to obsess over things like that and found that I’m better off if I don’t read responses to my comments. I believe most people who criticize others are really insecure themselves and they feel better if they can criticize others. Try to ignore them.

    • Laurie says:

      Kathy, you do a terrific job of leaving constructive criticism, IMHO. Glad you don’t worry about those commenter’s comments anymore – and thanks so much for your honesty on your own comments – it’s so incredibly important – and appreciated!

  • Awesome post as usual Laurie. I remember when I first started blogging, I would let some things really get to me. These days, it rolls off like water on a ducks back! I take criticism for what it is, if it’s meant to be constructive, I’ll listen and think of how I can use that information. When it comes to the non-constructive stuff…I don’t even really notice it anymore, I just delete the comments.

  • I am pretty good at handling constructive criticism but when people are saying things to be cruel for the sake of it or trying to ruin my day – I try my hardest to not take it to heart. It doesn’t always work but I try. 🙂 I do know that people who troll the internet with the sole intent to hurt feelings or start a fight are honestly not that interested in what you’re saying. They just want to cause problems and/or are hurting themselves. The ability to remain anonymous makes it easy for them to pick on others. Being so honest about your debt situation and owning the mistakes you made is incredibly brave. Don’t ever let anyone’s negativity make you doubt that or what you have accomplished Laurie.

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, there are definitely those whose sole intention is to hurt. It’s so important that we learn to turn our backs on those lies, isn’t it!

  • There are a lot of internet tough guys out there! The hide behind comments or e-mails. I doubt they would ever say any of those harsh things to your face. I totally agree with point #1, at the end of the day it’s your opinion that matters the most!

  • I often need this advice, Laurie, as I’m a particularly sensitive extrovert. A lot of my actions are taken to impress others, or to not mess up publicly, etc. I know it’s not the healthiest perspective but I try to acknowledge that it’s part of who I am. I can improve, but I likely will always have a thin skin to some degree.

    Like you rightly noted though, sometimes even the harsh criticism can be utilized for self improvement.

    • Laurie says:

      DB40, being a lot like you in this sense, I can assure you that there’s a good possibility that your skin will thicken with age. Eventually you get sick and tired of caring what people think. 😉

  • I can be hyper sensitive to criticism, even the constructive kind. I take it personally and interpret it to mean that I’m not good enough, which isn’t the case. I do see the value and impact of constructive criticism so I’m trying to be more open to receiving it. I do find some people are very blunt with their criticism but their intent is pure and good; their delivery is just poor and not very effective. It takes me longer to work through their criticism because, by nature, I am not a blunt person, but eventually I hear what they were saying. Now people who are just jerks and leave hurtful comments because they think they can – I don’t have time for them. DELETE!

    • Laurie says:

      Oh man, I have SO been there, Tanya. You’ll get to that place eventually where you focus on the fact that you are awesome, even if you’re not perfect.. 🙂

  • debt debs says:

    I’ve only received one comment that I felt was a little harsh given that the person was somewhat misinformed, which I pointed out in my response to that person.

    I’ll be honest though, Laurie, when I first started blogging, I felt there were too many gushy, over-the-top comments. It was almost a turn-off for me! Now I’ve either drunk the koolaid or figured out a way to give my “criticism” in a supportive manner. Sometimes, I just hold back, but there’s not too many situations that I recall doing that.

    So now that I’ve said that, let me give you some feedback and you can tell me how I did.

    As you know, Laurie, I sometimes liken our situations because we both have four kids, though yours are a lot younger and we’re older than you guys, and closer to retirement. I know you share on your sidebar the percentage of credit card debt payment that you’ve made to date. Sometimes I wish I could see the absolute #’s so I could make comparisons to our situation. Maybe its wrong for me to do this comparison, but call me anal, that’s how I roll. Have you ever thought about divulging more info in this regard? Maybe you have discussed this point in the past and I have not seen it. Anyways, just interested in your views. Certainly your call, your blog. I tend to be a blabber mouth and sometimes I think I should pull back more. LOL

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, funny, Deb. 🙂 Since Rick is so sensitive about us revealing our numbers, I just have to respect him on that. We will definitely be revealing every bit of it after pay off day, though. I’m in the midst of writing a book about it, and I’ll share lots of juicy gossip about us in in. 🙂

  • I’ve found people often criticize others to cover their deficiencies. It’s to make themselves feel better, to mask their own struggles. On the flip side it’s also good to have constructive criticism and not have people that enable your bad behavior. Great post Laurie!

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Charles!! There is definitely a balance there, and constructive criticism can really be helpful if you’ll let it.

  • Elisabeth says:

    I don’t think I’ve received much blog criticism. In real life? I’ve had my fair share of mean criticism…from unlikely sources. I’ve learned to speak up for myself and remain confident. And when possible, distancing myself from those that aren’t supportive helps too.

    • Laurie says:

      So glad you’ve learned too to brush off that mean criticism. Distancing yourself is huge – it’s difficult sometimes, but it really helps.

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