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A Simple Guide on How to Handle Destructive Criticism



destructive criticism

People criticized me. So I changed. But people still criticized me. So I changed more. And still people criticized me. Then finally I realized it’s what they will do, no matter what. And I changed once more, by no longer listening to those people.

Does that mean I have stopped listening to people’s advice? Of course not, I welcome it, I’m grateful for it. But there is a not-so-fine-line between those who destructively criticize, and those offering “constructive criticism” — that is, the advice that can be the most important, even and perhaps especially the tough love variety.

The difference resides in the intention of the person delivering the criticism:

  • Are they someone who genuinely cares about you, and/or about the results of your actions, first of all?
  • Are they saying whatever they are saying because they genuinely care about your improvement, or the improvement of whatever it is your actions are impacting, even if their words may not be the best they could have chosen?
  • Are they truly speaking from an emotional place of insecurity, jealousy, guilt, anger, or hate?

Responding Versus Reacting

If you and I were purely rational beings, it would be pretty easy to routinely recognize others’ intentions, and therefore the difference between constructive versus destructive criticism. Be we too have these little things called “emotions” that can sometimes get in our way… in a big way.

So one of the most beneficial things you can learn is to “scan yourself” to recognize your own emotions at any given time. (This is a habit that serves you well in many respects of life, of course; people can get better and better at it, but no one ever perfects it.)

When it comes to determining the difference between someone giving constructive versus destructive criticism, assess if you have any emotional disturbances or walls up inside you. For example, are you feeling insecure in the face of the particular constructive criticism you are receiving, taking things personally when they are not so, and misinterpreting it as destructive?

Do you have your own internal anger or sadness about something in relation to the person who is delivering what they mean as good advice, which therefore may be tainting how you hear it? Are you simply crabby?

It is not always easy to scan and analyze your own emotions in this manner, but then little that is worth doing is ever easy. The more you can recognize your own emotions so you can respond versus react, the more strife you will avoid and growth you will achieve.

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond”

Recognizing the Destructive

If you do have your own emotions in check, then, it is typically not hard to recognize those who are destructively criticizing you. If their criticism is full of downright insults — calling you stupid and the like, implying or stating outright you’ll never amount to much, etc. — that is clearly destructive.

But also watch their facial and bodily expressions, and listen to the tone of their voices. Instead of the look and sound of care, concern, or worry, destructive criticism usually looks and feels like an attack.

Sometimes you will even sense a sort of sick delight in the person destructively criticizing you, because these “broken” people draw a temporary and false sense of strength and joy from tearing you and likely others down.

The Only Thing to Do

When you are certain a person is in the business of destructively criticizing you, the best thing or the ONLY thing you can do is let them go. Shut them off. Detach. Stop listening. Easier said than done, I know, but amongst the most important things you’ll ever do in your life. If this person is someone you can physically part from in your life, do so.

What If It’s Someone Close to You?

However, often the biggest challenge comes when someone you care about, and who “should” care about you, such as a parent, sibling, spouse, or even someone who once did care about you like an ex or old friend — turns to destructive criticism.

This can feel especially disheartening and like it just doesn’t add up. Because this is a person we ought to be able trust, and so it is extremely easy to take their criticism to heart, even if we rationally know their criticism is not well-intentioned and frankly, full of crap.

But in these cases too, difficult as it may be, you must detach. You may not be able to physically leave in some cases, but you can increasingly teach yourself to mentally and emotionally depart and NOT take any of their destructive words to heart. Yes, it takes work to do this, but believe me, the work is worth it.

“Your circle of influence dictates your path” – Oprah

By the way, if you cannot, or choose not to, physically depart from this person, do remember you cannot fix anyone else, no matter how much you love them and wish you could. You can attempt your own constructive advice to try to help them, but be prepared for extensive resistance, to say the least. The good news is that most “lost souls” do find their way back, starting with one trigger or another; the bad news is that not all do.

Only you, with your own set of values, know who it is you won’t physically leave despite their destructive criticism and negativity, or how far your lines are drawn before you must physically leave them. This is something you should assess and understand for yourself now, hard as it may be, if you don’t yet know.

Misguided Daggers

No matter what, you absolutely CAN choose who you will listen to, whose words you will let inside your head, and whose you will keep out. Even if they’re in the next office over, or in the bed right next to you.

My strong constructive advice is to choose carefully, choose wisely, and for any and all who would destructively criticize you, remember their daggers are misguided. Those who destructively criticize others have one form or another of self-loathing, and the daggers they throw at others are really meant for themselves. Do the work to ban their misguided daggers from piercing your heart.

How are you dealing with criticism? Comment below!

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Brian Vaszily is the founder of, which publishes life-changing questions like this and other unique content that can improve your life and make you say “Huh!” and things like it. He’s the author of multiple books, including the #1 bestseller, The 9 Intense Experiences: An Action Plan to Change Your Life Forever, is a popular speaker, and has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS and other major media.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ram

    Apr 26, 2018 at 4:48 am

    Sometimes, we miss out on the scope of constructive feedback. This has in many cases ironed out gross misunderstanding between the two of us involved in the situation, and we eventually emerge with a great clarity on each other’s perspectives. It only dawns on me that it was never a criticism in the first place. So, the simple formula is “just talk openly”.

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Don’t Want To Feel Like A Failure Anymore? Stop Doing These 6 Things



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It’s pretty annoying isn’t it? All those great and accomplished people telling you that FAILURE is a necessity on your way to success. Yeah, that’s easy for them to say; they’re already ‘on the other side’! You on the other hand, are still struggling all day everyday to get your business lifted off the ground and are really not that sure if you’re indeed going to make it.

There’s that little voice in your head that keeps telling you that you don’t have the stuff to make it all happen. Not now and not ever. You feel like a failure…it’s holding you back and you don’t know how to deal with it. Well you could do yourself a favor and start dealing with it by doing the following things:

1. Stop Denying You Feel Like A Failure

Telling yourself things are going great when they’re not is one of the biggest, though most useless, coping mechanisms human beings deploy in rough times. Common denial signals among entrepreneurs: trying to regain more control by working even more hours and on the other side compensating this by letting go of all this control by partying and drinking way too hard.

What you’re doing is denying yourself the opportunity to actually feel what’s going on and acknowledge the problem; that both you and your business are in a bad place. Without acknowledging it, it’ll be pretty difficult to actually STOP feeling it. And remember, just because you feel like a failure, this does not mean that you indeed ARE a failure!

2. Stop Making It Bigger Than it Really Is

This is one of those other ‘fun’ things human beings do; we blow things way out of proportion in our heads! In business, when you lose that big client you’ve been working on for weeks, it feels like it’s the end of the world. You start doubting yourself, your strategy, your entire business model right up to the point where you barely sleep because you’re working on pivoting the whole thing.

But what if that customer simply didn’t have the money to go for your service anyway? Or what if they just decided to go for someone who is cheaper but who offers less quality? Does that mean there’s something wrong with YOU? Or that this was the ONLY customer out there and that you’re now doomed forever?

Of course not, it simply means that THIS CUSTOMER wasn’t a match. It’s a bit like dating actually…So if you take this into consideration, could it be that you just feel like a failure instead of really not succeeding in that what you want to at this point in time?

3. Stop Thinking You’re The Only One Who Feels Like This

You’re not! With the possible exception of the true sociopaths, that feeling you’re feeling is very normal to EVERYONE. It might not seem like it on the outside – because people don’t like to acknowledge this remember – but I can guarantee you that it’s true. But unlike 99% of the world’s population, YOU’RE not going to let this feeling stop you in your tracks. Are you?

4. Stop Thinking You’re Supposed To Be Superhuman

In fact, it’s very likely that you’re already doing, learning and succeeding at WAY more than most other people are. But for entrepreneurs, somehow, that never seems to be enough. You don’t just want to be successful after a few years of hard work (which is normal). You want to be successful after only a few months. Because you’re special…or at least you think you are…

Well, here’s the truth: you ARE special! But…it’s just not very likely that you’re one of those – very very rare – entrepreneurial superstars that – seemingly – just added some hot water and got instant business success as a result.

5. Stop Being So Incredibly Stubborn

Entrepreneurs are stubborn…almost by default. It’s what makes them push forward in the hardest of times. But…if you’re not doing the right things right you might just be hammering a square peg through a round hole. Which will only add to that frustrated feeling you’re already having. So why not stop being so stubborn for a moment, stop hammering away on that what obviously is not working and ask for help?

No matter who you ask – a business mentor or coach, a befriended entrepreneur – someone with a neutral perspective on you and our business will be very likely to see what’s going on with a lot more clarity than you can and can guide you to a place that will feel a whole lot more comfortable.

6. Stop Being Afraid Of Failure

I know, I know, you’ve heard this a million times before and you wouldn’t be in this pickle if you could do this. Right? I’m right there with ya!

But, if you get really rational about it, what’s the worst that could happen?

  • You might have to get a ‘real’ job for a while and start over on the side;
  • You might not be able to afford your rent anymore…but with Airbnb on the 1 hand and couchsurfing on the other, you should be able to work it out somehow;
  • You’ll have all the more experience to start over a whole lot faster;
  • You’ll be no less respected by anyone because it’s clear you gave it your all;
  • In a few years, when you’re an established and supersuccessful entrepreneur you’ll also have a cool failure story to tell;
  • None of your limbs will fall off;

Now that’s not too bad for a plan B is it? Failure is such a negative word. And the associated feeling is terrible and numbing. But really…how is giving it your all and not succeeding really the same as failing? Shouldn’t the definition of failure not be along the lines of ‘not even trying’ or ‘giving up when it gets hard’?

In other words: stop beating yourself up over this!

There’s really no need to feel like a failure at all because you’re sticking your neck out, you’re trying to make a difference and you’re still moving upward on that treacherous entrepreneurial mountain.

And that…is what success REALLY is.

Those Who Failed Their Way To Success

Quotes To Live By:

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy

“If you don’t try at anything, you can’t fail… it takes back bone to lead the life you want” – Richard Yates

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

“We are all failures – at least the best of us are.” – J.M. Barrie

“Success is stumbling form failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm” – Winston Churchill

“Don’t let success go to your head and failure to your heart” – Will Smith

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