Criticism is a normal part of living and if avoided produces emotional handicaps. Almost all criticism, including the helpful kind, hurts. Guilt, grief and loss of self-esteem usually result from being criticized, but we can take away the sting by learning how to give and receive criticism constructively.

The following suggestions will help you become more skillful in learning to deal with the critic and the criticism.

* Sort Out Feelings Before Speaking

* Quickly Analyze the Criticism

* Try to Remain Calm

* Figure Out the Target

* Level Sincerely with the Other Person

* Present or Solicit Constructive Suggestions

Remember These Points When You Are Giving Criticism

* Understand what you want to say.

* Know that giving criticism is not always easy.

* Misinterpretation is less likely with eye contact; reactions are revealed

* Speak only for yourself.

* Don’t act as a go-between for another.

* Be descriptive, not judgmental. “This food is cold,” not “This is terrible food.”

* Express disappointment with the behavior rather than with the person.

* Remember you have the right to criticize constructively.

* Use criticism wisely; don’t diminish another’s self worth.

* Understand that receiving criticism is painful.

Remember These When You Are Receiving Criticism Don’ts and Do’s


1. Immediately assume you are guilty.

2. Avoid or ignore criticism because it hurts.

3. Counterattack, then flee.

4. Just take it, then self-criticize.

5. Be a martyr and make critic feel guilty.

6. Put the blame on a scapegoat.

7. Let angry feelings pile up.


1. Understand that criticism may prove helpful.

2. Realize criticism may be true and valid.

3. Reshape attitudes toward criticism.

4. Meet unfair or punishing criticism.

5. Calmly challenge unjustified attacks on your terms.

6. Try to figure out real message behind angry words.

7. Separate issue from anger.

8. Let critic calm down, or wait briefly before replying.

9. Stand firm against put-down or destructive behavior.

10. Get clarification of a critical “question”.

11. Ask for suggestions on how to improve.

12. Take responsibility for working out problems.

Copyright Alabama State Nurses’ Association Jun-Aug 2006

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