Can you deal with criticism?

Whether it’s your friend, your family or your partner pointing out your flaws – criticism always stings. None of us like hearing it and most of us don’t like to have to do it. But whatever way you look at it criticism is an essential part of everyday life and improvement.
So how to we cope with criticism without taking it to heart?
“The key is to avoid over analyzing the situation,” explains life coach and trainer Catherine Fitzsimons. “Often we think over and over about things when it is far more useful to move on.”
“Use the Accept, Learn, Change model,” she advises. “Accept your mistakes, Learn from them, Change one or two things that will benefit you going forward.
“Also don’t forget, the use of filters can distort reality. They are what we use to see and understand the world we live in. We are conditioned to use filters and often acquired from our parents and peers however they can stop us from understanding that there are other ways to view the world!” she explains. With that in mind, we look at how to deal with criticism in the situations that matter.

At work

You know the feeling. You’ve tried hard at something but you got it wrong. Or perhaps you think you a task well but someone else disagrees. Then arrives the inevitable tirade of criticism.
“Always be positive and ask for clarity if required,” advises Catherine.
“Ask for time to think, particularly if you feel emotional as often emotions can get in the way of logic. Then try and use the criticism for improvement.
“Always believe you can do something rather than accept you can’t. Notice what happens when you believe you can’t do something and notice the same when you believe you can.  The difference is in your mindset so always try something at least twice before you decide to fail,” she says
But if you think it goes further then helpful criticism Catherine advises another tactic.
“Workplace criticism should always be constructive or if not it should be dealt with by asking the critic to desist. Following that you should seek help through your HR department. Your workplace should have a policy to deal with bullying,” she adds.

From a friend

Friends are usually there to make you feel better and listen to your woes – but sometimes they might criticise you too. There might be a good reason, but nevertheless this can be particularly painful. So how do you cope?
“Remember you can choose your friends, so choose carefully,” warns Catherine. “But a good friend might be only trying to help.”
“Ask yourself did you invite criticism? If so you need to be prepared for the truth.
“Remember, when you become aware of something, you can change it so they might be doing you a favour in the long run.
“Take time out to consider the message and separate the facts. Also ask yourself, did your critic have all the facts? If not correct them. Ask yourself if there any learnings that arose from the messages received, if there are then accept, change whatever you need to and move on.”

In a relationship

Receiving criticism from your partner can be extremely troubling, especially if you don’t feel secure in your relationship or are genuinely trying your best. No one can guess how many marriages have been broken up as a result of too much criticism. Catherine has tips on how to deal with it.
“Like other critics such as work colleagues, partners can also be treated with the same set of rules.
“Try not to take their criticism personally and understand the point of reference your partner may be coming from. Is it genuine concern or control? Fact or fiction, reality or filter?”
“If the criticism is pointed towards your looks or personality then it is not a good idea to accept the criticism but may be a reality check to look at the relationship. For instance, is this person really somebody that you want to be with? Does your partner know how their comments affect you? If so, are they willing to change?”

From family 

Most of us will have received enough criticism from our families to fill an entire book. But is it worth taking all of their criticisms to heart? Catherine looks to the heart of the matter.
“Family, like partners, can often be overly critical and cause a lot of pain and grief,” she says.
“Bullying can often be used sub-consciously or consciously in a struggle for power between family members and is very destructive. Often parents can be totally unaware that they are bullying their offspring in an attempt to re-live their missed dreams.
“But on the other hand, they may be doing it because they care. Try not to take it personally. Determine the facts and use the Accept Learn, Change model if required.
“Treat yourself with love and respect.  Remember, we all have good and bad points so love yourself as much as you would love your own child.”

For more information and advice from Catherine Fitzsimons go to or email


How to give criticism – Catherine’s top tips

“Use ‘The Sandwich Technique,’” advises Catherine. “The idea is to deliver your criticism carefully between the slices of bread in a sandwich. The filling is your vehicle for delivering the intended criticism,” she says.
“Firstly decide what it is you believe your receiver needs to know about their current performance, pick out both good and bad points. After you have formed your list then prioritise exactly what the three things that worked well and three things that didn’t work well.
“The ‘sandwich technique’ would then be used to deliver two good points about what really worked well, followed by the three things that didn’t work so well.
“Finally you would top your sandwich with the last point on what worked really well,” she adds.

  • Never openly criticise, always do in private so the person will not be embarrassed.

  • Don’t get personal by criticising someone’s looks or other characteristics of their genetics that they have no control over.

  • Use positive language and have some advice ready on suitable resources the person can use to help them improve.

  • Be sure your message is well intentioned and will help the person improve if they take your advice on board.

  • Don’t over-criticise your receiver with too many points for change. Instead choose one or two points that are top priority.