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How to Take Criticism Without Becoming a Doormat

Photo courtesy of fauxto_digit

One thing I’ve learned from watching a lot of reality TV is that when people say things like “you should learn to take criticism, get a thicker skin,” what they really mean is they want to continue to walk all over you and they don’t want you to say anything back. I’ve come across this sort of behavior a lot recently – people speaking very bluntly about their opinion of you, only to accuse you of being uptight when you decide to bite back. So where is the balance? Isn’t there a way to still take criticism without becoming a doormat?

For me, a big part of taking criticism is about the other person’s motivations. What are they trying to gain by criticizing you, and how do they react when you contest that criticism? There are some people who simply enjoy conflict, or can’t help but give their “honest” opinion when it isn’t asked for. I’ve also come across people whose second nature is to try to dominate a conversation, regardless of the topic. They’ll rant about their views at length, only to shoot you down when you try to add your own opinion into the mix. This kind of conversational pressuring typically comes from the same people who tell you to “get a thicker skin” or, my personal favorite, “learn to take a joke” when their telling you how it is rubs you the wrong way.

On the other hand, criticism can be an excellent tool for self-improvement. I don’t think I’d be the person I am today if I hadn’t received a whirlwind of criticism from my closest friends and family. As long as it remains constructive, getting the odd piece of criticism from somebody who knows your faults and habits well can be invaluable to personal growth. It can help you to pay attention to the finer details you’d previously overlooked, or learn to stop repeating the same mistakes over and over.

There is definitely a fine line between taking criticism and letting others walk all over you. Whether you agree with the points being made against you or not, it makes sense to listen to what the other person has to say before flat out disagreeing with them (as is in our nature). Don’t be a doormat, sure, but learn to take criticism for what it is: a useful tool for bettering yourself.

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