3 Steps to Better Handle Criticism

As stepmoms, it is inevitable that we’re going to be criticized. Our stepchildren’s mom may call our decisions into question, our stepchildren may criticize our cooking skills, or just the way we run our household in general. Even other parents on the soccer team can be critical of what we do or don’t do. Everyone faces criticism at some point in their lives, but the important thing is how you handle that criticism.

When we’re criticized, it can feel like an attack. It may feel unfair, and you might dwell on the criticism itself. Why don’t my stepchildren appreciate my home-cooked meals? Why are they constantly comparing me to their mom?

A recent study explored this topic and asked a group of 383 people: What do you do when you’re criticized?

The results were intriguing.

28% – get angry and strike back

70%  – get hurt and back away

2% –  I’m perfect. I’m never criticized.

So the majority of people got hurt and backed away. And, researchers have found that we are more likely to ruminate over these negative events. However, what if instead of backing away, we approached the situation differently? What if we handled it better so we didn’t end up dwelling on the situation? Let’s take a look at 3 steps that can help us better handle criticism.

How to Handle Criticism

Step 1: Expect to be Criticized.

Criticism is inevitable, so be prepared for it when it happens. If we have this mindset, we won’t be surprised when we receive criticism. Constructive criticism can help us learn and grow.

Step 2: Listen and reflect.

Listen carefully to what the other person has to say and ask yourself an important question:

  • Do I need more information? Sometimes, criticism can come from a place of misunderstanding. Ask questions to get more information. Make sure that you understand where the criticism is coming from.

Step 3: Classify and respond appropriately.

Next, ask yourself: what type of criticism is it? Your response will differ depending on your answers.

  • Is it accurate? When thinking about this question, be completely honest with yourself. Try to look at it from the other person’s point of view as well. If you decide the criticism is accurate, use this as an opportunity for change. This can be hard to admit, and change is even harder, but if you look at it as opportunity, you can approach it in a positive light. And just think about the positive effect it can have on your relationships!
  • Is it inaccurate? If the criticism is inaccurate, you can use this as an opportunity to teach. Maybe the other person needs more information about the situation. This is where you can explain your side of the situation or tell your story. This can happen when children are going back and forth between households. A child might share that they don’t have enough food in one household. They might say, “Dad isn’t buying groceries.” Naturally, Mom will be concerned and ask Dad about the situation. If they are able to listen and ask questions of each other, they will discover that Dad is buying groceries. The problem is that the child doesn’t like to eat the healthy food that Dad is buying. This is just one example of a situation that is born out of misunderstanding, and if both parties are willing to step back, ask questions, and listen, the situation can be resolved quickly.  
  • Is it malicious? Malicious criticism is used purely for negative, self-serving purposes. It is simply used to hurt another person’s character or feelings. This is not constructive criticism. The way you handle this will vary depending on the situation. You may receive a nasty message or comment from someone else online, criticizing the way you parent. Your first instinct may be to defend yourself. However, you must ask yourself a few questions: do I care how this person perceives me? Is this person someone I love and respect? Do I value their feedback? Is their feedback coming from a place of wanting me to be a better person? Or, is this comment simply meant to belittle me? Often, the comment is coming from someone who doesn’t feel good about themselves, or perhaps they are hurting, and they are lashing out to make others feel as bad as they do. Don’t fall into that trap. You can use this as an opportunity to show grace. Realize that they are hurting, and simply ignore the comment. However, if the criticism is calling your reputation into question or is actually libel or slander, then you need to address the situation. This will vary widely depending on the situation, but this calls for more drastic measures and may involve the courts. An example of this is if someone is accusing you of child abuse. This is a very serious issue, and should be handled accordingly.

If you follow these three steps, you’ll be able to classify the type of criticism you receive, and handle it appropriately. Instead of wasting unnecessary time on drafting up potential responses to malicious criticism, you can spend your time responding to the constructive criticism that you receive. You can use that criticism to become the best version of yourself.