How to Take Criticism

In our 21st century Western culture, children are raised to believe that safeguarding their own feelings is the highest aim of life. Many elementary schools have dispensed with grades because low grades make student feel sad. This culture gives rise to men who have simply never learned how to take criticism properly. Taking criticism is tough. No one enjoys hearing their faults enumerated. However, criticism is a crucial ingredient in maturing as an individual. We only see things from our own point of view and can overlook important faults and shortcomings without ever realizing it. In this article, we’ll talk about some tips on how to take criticism.

Don’t take all criticism equally

No matter what you do and how well you do it, people will criticize you. No matter how right you are, people will criticize you. No matter how correct your approach is, people will criticize you. Look at any famous ‘alim or Islamic speaker. No matter how much good they’ve done and how sincere they have been in their commitment to helping Islam, you’ll find the stupidest idiots on the internet criticizing them as if they were equals. Criticism from these types of people is best handled by ignoring it completely. The most important part of improving through criticism is separating the wheat from the chaff and knowing whose criticism to accept.

Evaluate each person’s criticism independently. Are they someone who’s genuinely interested in helping you become better? Criticism from a parent or a sibling should be taken much more seriously than criticism from a random commenter on YouTube. That doesn’t mean you should automatically dismiss criticism from strangers. Honestly consider it because it may still be valid. But treat it with skepticism and don’t give it as much weight as criticism from someone you respect.

Ignore the tone, focus on the message

Someone pointing out your faults is doing you a favor. They’re exposing to you a defect that you didn’t know you had, allowing you to fix it. It would be extremely shortsighted to ignore that defect just because the person didn’t bring it to your attention with flowery speech. Don’t let a severe tone or harsh words blind you to the truth of someone’s criticism. Yes, that is not a good way to give criticism and it should not be the way you give criticism, but criticism is a gift. Recognize that and focus on the contents, not the packaging.

Don’t argue

Arguing against a critic is short-sighted. Either they’re a person with legitimate criticism or they’re not. If the former, you have much to gain and a lot to lose by arguing with them. You don’t want someone with good criticism to not voice it to you because they know you won’t take it well.  If the latter, you’re wasting your time arguing with someone whose opinion is worthless. Smile, thank them, and then discard their criticism as soon as they walk away.

Detach yourself from the criticism

What I mean by this is to not take criticism as an indictment of you as a person. When you take criticism as a personal attack, it’s hard to not become emotional. Separate yourself as a person from the actions that are being criticized. If someone tells you that you’re sloppy and that it’s causing issues, don’t take it as “He’s saying I’m a sloppy person”. Instead, take it as, “He’s saying my work is sloppy. I can do better.”

Man up and accept responsibility

One of the most shameful things you can do when being criticized is to respond, “Why don’t you mind your own business?” or “Oh yeah? What about you?”

Abdullah ibn Masu’d (ra) narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said

وَإِنَّ أَبْغَضَ الْكَلامِ إِلَى اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ أَنْ يَقُولَ الرَّجُلُ لِلرَّجُلِ اتَّقِ اللَّهَ فَيَقُولُ عَلَيْكَ بِنَفْسِكَ

“The most hateful words to Allah are that a man tells another man to fear Allah and he responds: ‘Mind your own self.’” (Shu’ab al-Imān of Bayhaqi)

Don’t get defensive. Shoulder the blame when you’re at fault. If you think you’re perfect, you’ll always be mediocre. You can’t improve if you don’t know what’s wrong. Don’t make excuses, don’t offer justifications. Take the criticism and use it to improve yourself. Instead of avoiding critics, seek them out. Those are the people who’ll make you a better man.

What suggestions do you have about taking criticism? Share it in the comment section below!


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