Reacting to criticism in relation to being resilient.

I read a recent Forbes article about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and there is a question she was frequently asked.

When asked for career (and relationship) advice she said, “It helps to be a little deaf”.  She went on to say that when a critical word is spoken, she finds it beneficial to not react but to tune it out. “Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.”

Sound advice (no pun intended!) …

It got me thinking about criticism and what type of criticism should be ignored, or as RGB put it, tuned out.

Let’s start here – what is the definition of criticism anyway? Criticism is the practice of judging the merits and faults of something. The judger is called a critic.

First, consider the role of the critic. Who is the person who is providing the criticism?

  • If the critic is important in your life and someone you trust, is there merit to consider? Can you perhaps see a growth opportunity?
  • If the critic isn’t important in your life, what do you choose to do with their criticism? Is it something you’ve heard before?
  • If the critic is you (yes, this happens), what do you know to be true about your inner critic?
  • Finally, and bottom line, is the criticism about you or the critic?

Regardless of who the critic is when criticism occurs the common response is either anger and/or self-doubt. Letting go of the anger and self-doubt associated with criticism and being able to move forward is often easier said than done.

There is an online test “How Do You React to Constructive Criticism?” that can prove that previous statement. Its findings indicate that less than 25% of the people who experience unkind or critical words can let go and move on. But, out of those who responded favorably in the test, 42% go on to say that they love their jobs. Those are both surprisingly good reasons to learn how you react to criticism and find ways to positively impact your reaction.

Here’s the bottom line, when criticism occurs, what are you hearing in the purpose of it? Growth or to diminish? If you consider the growth model, grasp it, thank the critic, and move on. If you consider the ‘to diminish’ model, tune it out and move on. For now.

What I do know is that when criticism occurs, whether for growth or to diminish, what we choose to do with the criticism has an impact on our lives.

And here’s where being resilient comes in to play. Resilience is something that’s essentially about how we get through tough times like now, with the COVID pandemic, educational challenges, social unrest, and the political landscape.

Bouncing back quickly from adversity, stress, change is essential these days. The ability to pick yourself up and continue is key.

Try this Resilience Assessment to explore your own resilience. What you learn here may help you with ideas and steps to grow.

What we know about resilience is that during difficult times, positivity, focus, adaptability, proactivity, and personal outlook may matter more than working for a great company or a fantastic manager.

So, what’s a leader to do to keep their team happy, healthy, and moving forward towards a common goal?

Much like RBG had to do in her career, help your employees understand your role, which is to be firm, fair, and compassionate, with an eye on their growth and development. Invite your employees to set aside emotions, anger, jealousy, etc. to search for the truth in constructive criticism. And, for you, the manager, be factual with your observations and intentional with your motives. With these two things present, you should be able to deliver a message in a calm, compassionate, and caring manner.