This post is my comment in response to Bob Burg's post "Consider the Source". Since it ended up being one of those "epic" responses I thought I would put it up as a post myself.

Taking criticism well is one of the hardest things we need to master in business and life in general. It hurts and we are wired to react to hurt.

The thing is, the degree of hurt is often of our own making. By that I mean we let ourselves react as if our physical being is threatened and therefore some defense mechanism needs to be triggered (fight or flight).

So the trick is to subdue our inclination to react right away. Look at the source is a good first step but take it further. What is the motivation of the person offering the criticism? Most often the worst criticism is really about them and not really about you (sounds like a good theme for a book).

I don’t agree with the approach of not respecting anyone who disagrees with you and dismissing the criticism because of that. I think the nobler approach is to show respect to all other people whether or not they seem to deserve it. Hey, I’ve probably annoyed someone with my criticism too; we are all human.

Grow from the criticism in one of two ways: look to see if it is valid or a wise alternative and learn/improve, or learn how to deal with the criticism in a positive way (not getting walked over either).

I think Seth Godin might have said something like “if everyone likes you and agrees with you, you are not making much of an impact… take a side”. So dealing with criticism is something you need to deal with to make a difference in the world.

In any event, I fully admit I am not there yet and need to work on my reactions. In the meantime if I offended you with my criticisms, I am man enough to be genuinely sorry for how it made you feel.

Where are you on the spectrum of dealing with criticism postively?

P.S. The worst critic most people have long term is themselves.