We all know someone who’s bad at receiving compliments and doesn’t know how to accept one graciously, but it’s always nice to hear you’re good at something, or that someone thinks you look nice today. Or that you make someone smile, or that someone likes you. Plain and simple: people like hearing good things about themselves. It makes us feel good, and who couldn’t use a little bit more of that once in a while?
As we know, though, life is not all about the good things. And sometimes it seems that certain people cannot wait to tell us we’re not that good at something—or that we flat-out suck.
But every bad thing we hear about ourselves—and we’re talking about those aimed at us, not the ones talked behind our backs, because we’re past high school and believe in the kindness of people—doesn’t have to be aimed against us. In fact, often it’s quite the opposite. Some may want to tell you what you did wrong or poorly so you can do it better next time.
So how can you tell if someone’s helping you to achieve what you can, or if they’re just being mean with no specific reason? Well, it’s quite simple, believe it or not.
Who are they?
One of the first things you have to pay attention to is your relationship with the criticizer. Who are they? Do they love you, do they care about you? Have they been supportive in the past? This is not a simple “if it’s your mother, then it’s constructive, but if it’s somebody you don’t know, it’s not” scenario.
Think about it—if you blog, for example, you rarely know your commenters in person, and we could say all of them are strangers. But there’s a large difference in whether a criticism comes from someone who has been your reader for a long time, or someone who just appeared out of the blue.
Think about who these people are and how long they’ve been around in your life or the place they’re coming from with their critique, and that will probably give you the answer about the nature of their criticism.
What do they say?
So someone just told you how unflattering your outfit is, or how badly you did a project presentation. It’s not that they’re close friends, but on the other hand, they’re not complete strangers or people you’re not on good terms with. If you cannot decide on the basis of who they are, listen closely to what exactly they say.
Are they just dropping bombs about how useless or unworthy you are and how bad at what you do? Shake them off, as our favorite girl says. Are they suggesting things you could do to improve? Are they pointing at your strong skills and not only to the things you were not so good at? Then take that into account, and use it well, because they probably want to help you do better than you did today.
How do they say it?
This may be the most important trait of a criticism. Are they just plain rude? Dealing with negative comments is hard, but if someone is just throwing rude comments at you, you should just ignore them, because that’s not what nice people do, and you needn’t concern yourself with them.
Are they being kind and using non-offensive language? If so, they’re most likely people who genuinely care about you and what you do. Embrace their words and let them help you on your way to achieving all the awesome things you have ahead of you.