Turn Criticism Into Coaching

Everyone needs a bit of coaching. The best athletes have a coach, so do the most successful people and so do the most effective leaders.

The trouble is, some coaches aren’t that great of a coach. They criticize, sometimes harshly, and call it coaching. Some people struggle to accept coaching; most of us struggle to accept criticism.

You really have no way to control another person’s thoughts or comments about you. There often is no way to tell if their criticism was meant in a helpful way or was meant to be hurtful. What you do have complete control over however is how you choose to accept it.

You can, yes YOU can, choose to accept all criticism as coaching meant to build you up. When you make that choice you have the power to turn even the most hurtful criticism into a learning experience.

First ask yourself if there is any truth to the criticism. Be honest with yourself, very honest. If you don’t see a hint of truth in the comment then put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask yourself why they might think it’s true. If you still come up empty then politely and as unemotionally as possible, ask them why they think it’s true.

Remember, it doesn’t matter how they intend the criticism to be taken, you’re accepting it as sincere coaching so do not become defensive. You must be open to the possibility that their criticism is valid and if you determine it to be then you must use it to improve yourself. Never give valid criticism less consideration than it deserves.

Learn how to stop taking things personally. This is especially important if, when you feel criticized, you tend to feel depressed. I know this is easier said then done but you must realize that an unfounded critical comment may say more about the person saying it than it says about you. They may feel threatened, they may lack confidence or they may just be flapping their gums. If you know it’s pure garbage then use your own confidence to ignore it.

When someone says something critical, smile and shrug. Then continue doing/saying whatever you were doing/saying. If the person is trying to get under your skin, this will show them that they did not succeed. If you lose control of your emotions then you lose control of the situation. Never give unjust criticism more consideration than it deserves.

If the person is your friend or boss, ask for advice. When someone criticizes you, say “Alright. What should I do instead?” This asks the person to follow through with their criticism. If they say they can’t for whatever reason, you can say “OK then, it might be more helpful if you didn’t point out a problem that you can’t or won’t help me fix.”

Don’t always listen to what people say. Don’t always believe what people say, especially when it’s something bad, and there’s only one person or two making this remark, only one time. It’s sad to say but not everyone has your best interests in mind. Trust yourself, you almost certainly do have your best interests in mind.

Above all stay open to the very likely possibility that you still have some growing and learning to do. It shouldn’t matter so much how someone intends their criticism to be taken. What really matters is how you take it.

When you decide you can learn something from anyone and anything it’s suddenly all good.

9 thoughts on “Turn Criticism Into Coaching

  1. Excellent post Steve.

    Even after having read Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, several times now. I still find it a challenge to not takes things personally at times when it involves people we care about. Or ‘used’ to care about but they are no longer an active part of your life for whatever reason, etc.

    For me, the most difficult criticism to accept is the less direct and personalized kind. Many of us encounter it on the internet where it has become popular to use that as a substitute for personal and direct, one on one conversations that address things personally, fully, and directly. It’s almost like the internet has turned people into cop outs…a way to to express what one refuses or can’t express directly.

    Unfortunately, this can backfire for multiple reasons. Indirect criticism is like blasting ammo blindly and we can leave a lot of collateral damage. Some of us are more sensitive then others so we may be picking up multiple general criticisms in multiple directions from multiple people and having an open heart that is willing to learn…this can only make it difficult to determine what ‘fits’ and what doesn’t. So people can become easily overwhelmed and defeated.

    A good coach is first and foremost, willing to have that conversation directly. One on one. It’s not left to just hanging it out there in the universe and believing that’s enough.

    People need specific, concrete examples in order to fully understand what the problems are, the impact of certain behaviors, why it’s necessary or important to make a change, etc. When these things are more personalized and fully understood, and coming from a person who cares…makes a world of difference.

    Otherwise, it can all come across as just meaningless noise. That still has the capacity to hurt if we are trying to ‘decipher’. (people aren’t dumb…when there’s a problem…people generally pick up on this and are told nothing is wrong…)

    You said:

    Don’t always listen to what people say. Don’t always believe what people say,

    Good advice! And again… a challenge to do sometimes for the sincere people. The one’s who ARE open and want to learn..

    Thanks for sharing Steve.

    1. The criticism I dislike the most is the kind that goes like this: someone said…

      Who is “someone?” Unless there is a name or specific incident sited I don’t even pay attention to it. If people don’t have the courage to come out of the shadows with there comments I just can’t give them much weight.

      The get a couple of minutes of consideration and if there is nothing there I move on. It’s really their problem at that point, not mine.

    1. Great title and a great truth… but it really is much easier said than done. Truly knowing and trusting yourself makes it more likely that you can ignore those who would tear you down.

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