A group of people are talking in front of a computer.

Use Negative Comments & Criticism to Help You Grow Emotionally

Doesn’t it feel as though someone always has an opinion on what you’re doing and how you can do it better? Sometimes, the advice can be good; other times, not so much. The question is, how do you filter the good advice from the bad advice? As a life coach for business owners, I understand that your time is really limited, and you need to know who to listen to and who to ignore.

So, to make your life easier, in this article, we will discuss how to respond, not react, to critical or negative comments from others.

three couples talking

Why does criticism and negative comments hurt our feelings?

Before we dive into the article, it is important to understand why we don’t want our feelings to be hurt. This will help us understand our internal resistance and make us more receptive to our thoughts, ultimately linking them to what is happening to us in reality.

Damaged self-worth

If you were raised in a dysfunctional home like myself, it is common to feel insecure about yourself, your achievements, or opinions. Consequently, your self-worth was unable to fully develop during your childhood.

Here is a list of some of the many ways your self-worth was negatively impacted by your family, friends, or community during your childhood:

  • Consistently by taunted, teased or bullied
  • Ignored because there was always a crisis 
  • Ignored because you were not thought of as the superstar or best performer in the home
  • In an emotionally enmeshed situation with one or more family members
  • Constantly told to ignore your feelings and fight through the pain
  • Held up to near impossible standards in school or sports

The list can go on and on. The point of this section is to say that some of us do not want reminders of our past traumatic experiences. All we want is praise for our efforts and a disregard for our shortcomings.

Unfortunately, this process of sticking our heads in the sand will do little to no good to help you grow professional or personally. 

As a life coach for entrepreneurs, it is my job to help you learn to heal from that past pain so that you can continue to grow in all areas of your life.

In the next section, we will talk about how to respond in emotionally mature ways to negative comments and criticism.

How you can respond maturely to negative comments and criticism 

A group of people are talking in front of a computer.

Challenge your life script

Due to your life script, you may respond to negative comment and criticism exactly the same way as your parent.

Because of your upbringing, you might react to negative comments and criticism just like your parents did.

Let me tell you about my client Angela (not her real name). She’s a real firecracker. When Angela was young, her mom used to say, “Angie, don’t let anyone make a fool out of you!” Angela took that advice very seriously.

So, whenever someone seemed to criticize Angela or her business decisions, she would respond with quick, sharp comments. Eventually, fewer people dared to say anything that might upset her.

As a result, Angela’s circle of business contacts got smaller, and only those who felt insecure, like her, stuck around. This is what happens when you follow advice without really thinking about it.

Do you still hear messages from your past that bother you today? Here are some examples of things you might have heard as a kid that make it hard to accept feedback:

  • They are just envious of you
  • Never let them see you sweat
  • They are out to get you
  • Keep a stiff upper lip
  • Nobody offers anything for free
  • They just want to control you
  • Avoid anything or anyone stressful at all cost

Being honest about these feelings will help you resist another’s ideas and give you a moment to think before you speak. 

In the next section, we will talk about how to evaluate the merits of someone’s words. This will help you keep an open mind to positive advice.

Its OKAY to ignore advice from people who: prioritize their own self-interest over your goals and agenda, are liars and hypocrites or have negative and divisive personalities.

How to evaluate what people say

Just because someone has a voice to speak doesn’t mean they have thoughts you need to hear. As a leader and business owner, you need to exude confidence. And highest form of confidence is being able evaluate what you hear without feeling defensive or insecure. 

In general, you want to take advice when:

Conversely, ignore advice from:
  • People who have prioritized their own self-interest over your goals and agenda
  • Liars and hypocrites
  • Negative and divisive personalities  

The graphic below is a flowchart that explains how to evaluate whether the advice or criticism is helpful.

A flowchart of how to respond appropriately to criticism.

Warning: Everyone is not capable of being mature at all times

Even if you are talking with someone who generally gives advice, please understand that they are humans. Just like you, they have good and bad days. In order to preserve your mental health and quality of your relationship, don’t expect people to be error-free in their communications with you.

Growing your empathic skills will help you during the moments you receive less than helpful advice from others. Even if it is not helpful, please be nice and say, “Thank you.” 

You have the power to control who impacts our mindset. Moreover, you have the ability to discern whether their advice is helpful for us. These are your superpowers: Self-Care and Discernment.

Be someone who accepts comments from others 

If you grew up in a negative and dysfunctional family, it is normal for you to feel suspicious of comments or advice. However, you have the choice now to filter out the good from the bad. That requires you to be receptive to all advice.

Here are some tips to help you be more receptive to comments or advice from others:

  • Do not take their words as a personal assault. Even if it was poorly worded, do not believe that they are out to ‘get you’.
  • Maintain a friendly body language when someone is speaking to you. If you want to show that you’re receptive to their feedback, please do the following:
    • Remove distractions (including silencing your phone and facing away from your computer) 
    • Uncross your arms
    • Face toward your speaker
    • Maintain eye contact
    • When appropriate, smile and nod your head

Final Thoughts

While I can’t change what happened in the past, I can give you tools to talk better with others now. You can decide how to use advice from others based on what they say and how close you are to them. This means you can handle criticism and negative comments in a grown-up and healthy way. Basically, you can choose who affects how you think.

You can figure out if their advice is useful for you. In other words, you can choose who influences your thoughts. Plus, you can decide if their advice helps you or not.

If you need help with managing your emotional reactions, don’t hesitate to work with a professional life coach like myself. 

Dig deeper: Click here to listen this episode from my podcast or press the play button below.