5 Steps to Handle Criticism Gracefully

Taking criticism is never easy. Here’s how to check yourself and avoid ruining your relationships.


The first time a close friend took me aside to share some serious criticism was in 11th grade. She saw me making a mistake and tried to help me fix it. At the time, I jumped to the defensive and ignored her comments. Only with the 20/20 vision of hindsight did I realize that she was right. Our closest friends know us better than anyone, meaning that they’re the best people to help us tackle our flaws.

Taking criticism is never easy. Hearing about our own flaws tends to bring up a defensive response that has ended many a friendship in the past. But getting criticism is also the only way we can work to improve. Next time a friend tries to give you constructive advice, do your best to get what you can out of it without getting hurt.

5 Steps to Handle Criticism Gracefully

  1. Differentiate Between Mean And Constructive Comments

Just because a friend tries to help you, doesn’t mean she’s right. If your friend is more insulting than constructive, it might be time to reevaluate your relationship. But if she takes you aside and addresses the issue with kindness and respect, recognize that she’s doing her best to help you. Hear her out.

  1. Avoid Defensiveness

If your friend shares constructive criticism with respect, avoid getting defensive. Responding to criticism with a defensive or belligerent attitude is a sure-fire way to start an argument. Your first reaction might be to defend yourself and deny her claims, but try not to vocalize these feelings right away. Instead, thank your friend for her concern and take some distance to think things through.

Do your best to get what you can out of their advice

5 Steps to Handle Criticism Gracefully

  1. Respect Their Opinion

Hearing criticism is hard, but so is approaching a friend with advice. Respect that your friend has your best intentions at heart and wants to help you. Instead of harboring resentful feelings, think about what you’d do if you reversed your roles. Letting a loved one make mistakes is easy–it’s much harder to intervene, but in the end it’s the right thing to do. Hard as it might be to hear, take the advice as a sign of love. It takes a lot of courage and affection to approach someone on a sensitive topic.

  1. Evaluate With Honesty

Before broaching the topic again, think about what your friend had to say and evaluate her opinion. Be honest with yourself—is she right? If you have questions or want to talk things out more, go to your friend for help. Likewise, if you’re feeling hurt or blindsided, now is the time to talk through those emotions.

  1. Set Goals

Once you’ve evaluated your friend’s advice, decide how you want to use it. Form some concrete goals based on the advice you’ve received to improve yourself. No one is perfect, and criticism is the only way we can see our own flaws and work on them. Use your friend’s honesty to make new goals for self-improvement.

Avoid getting defensive so you can understand their point of view

5 Steps to Handle Criticism Gracefully

Those close to us see us at our worst, making them the best people to turn to in times of trouble. They’re also the best people to help us better ourselves. Sensitive topics are difficult for everyone involved, but we walk away stronger, ready to strive for new goals.

Avatar of Auriane Desombre

Born in France but raised all over the place, Auriane has wanted to write ever since she was old enough to spell her name. In her spare time she loves reading, hanging out with her best friends (even when they're not in the same time zone), and spontaneous singing with her Broadway-bound roommate.

Reader Discussion: 196 Comments

  1. Avatar of Beatrice Carter

    Beatrice Carter

    Coping with criticism can be a challenge, but it’s something we”re all bound to encounter at some point.

  2. Avatar of Lauren Berry

    Lauren Berry

    If you’re doing what’s right for you and you feel good about how you’re behaving, you don’t need anyone else’s approval.

    • Avatar of Christina Perry

      Christina Perry

      I agree. You know yourself better.

  3. Avatar of Megan Griffin

    Megan Griffin

    Sometimes, someone might criticize you because they have different life experiences, beliefs ,and opinions that they would like to share with you.

    • Avatar of Valerie Matthews

      Valerie Matthews

      I give feedback to help someone improve and make hin/her realize that what he/she did was wrong.

  4. Avatar of Johanna Carroll

    Johanna Carroll

    Some individuals are critical by nature and do not always realize that they are hurting the feelings of another person.

  5. Avatar of Mercedes Andrews

    Mercedes Andrews

    If you know a person who is critical of everything try not to take their comments too seriously, as this is just part of their character trait.

  6. Avatar of Olivia Osborne

    Olivia Osborne

    It’s hard not to take it personally when someone is criticizing you, but try to take a step back from the words, and process them from an objective place.

  7. Avatar of Sara Todd

    Sara Todd

    What a wonderful point of view you have in this article. ? I personally, I appreciate and welcome criticism. I don’t think people can improve from hearing they’re doing a great job all the time.

  8. Avatar of Maggie Ross

    It’s not the easiest to accept something negative especially when it surprised you that people actually think “you’re like that”.

    • Avatar of Tasha Vargas

      Tasha Vargas

      Yeah, but at some point, we don’t have a hoice but to accept that people’s opinions about us differ.

  9. Avatar of Eloise Galloway

    People might criticize you because they are simply trying to help you. They have very good intentions. These intentions might be misguided , but they are criticizng you for the right reasons.Just be open minded.

    • Avatar of Lucy Newton

      Lucy Newton

      Right. But most of them are just haters! who are jealous and insecure!

  10. Avatar of Kristi Perkins

    When challenged by another person, it is common to react in a negative manner. But the way you choose to handle criticism has a knock-on effect.

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