Criticism: How to Cope In A Healthy Manner

BY Jessica Helinski
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Criticism is a necessary part of life but it’s certainly not enjoyable or easy to handle. When faced with it, especially on the job, we can feel embarrassed, disappointed and deflated. Most of us pull ourselves together after receiving negative feedback and cope somehow. But are your coping mechanisms healthy? Salespeople who don’t handle criticism in a healthy manner could actually be resorting to self-​deception. “When a negative emotion strikes, we don’t pay much attention to the kind of coping strategy we pull out and whether it involves self-​deception or not,” explains Julia Galef in her TED Talk. She goes on to point out that there are less deceitful ways to cope.

  • Make a plan
  • Notice silver linings
  • Focus on a different goal

Criticism and skills to cope

Resorting to distorted thinking to better cope won’t do salespeople any good in the long run. Often it includes unhealthy behaviors like wallowing in regret and self-​loathing, blaming others, and scapegoating. “I like to imagine all of the possible coping strategies, all the ways you could stave off negative emotions, piled up in a giant figurative bucket,” Galef explains. “What I’m proposing is that there is an abundance of different coping strategies, and you don’t need to go with the first thing you pull out of the bucket. You can almost always find something comforting that doesn’t require self-​deception if you rummage around in there just a bit longer.”

Make a plan

One tactic to cope with criticism is to make a plan. Following unpleasant feedback, reps may feel the urge to immediately reject what they hear. Instead, they could make a plan of action. Whether it’s an apology for a misunderstanding with a prospect or owning up to a mistake with the boss, it will be uncomfortable. Having a plan won’t take away the discomfort immediately, but it will soften the discomfort gradually. “Even a simple plan, like ‘Here’s how I would explain the failure to my team …,’ or ‘Here’s how I would begin my search for a new job …’ can go a long way toward making you feel like you don’t need to rely on denial to cope with reality,” Galef writes.

Notice silver linings

Criticism can drive you to dark places: embarrassment, shame, anger, resentment. These feelings are not fun, nor do they lend to your professionalism and productivity. Rather than drown in these feelings, try to notice the silver linings in the criticism. “A silver lining to any mistake is the lesson you’re going to extract from the experience, which you can use to help save you from similar mistakes in the future,” she explains. And Galef also points out that you don’t have to force yourself to love the critique you received; you simply should look to what good can come of it.

For the third coping strategy, check out the TED article discussing Galef’s talk. Her take on criticism can open your eyes to new ways of dealing with an uncomfortable, yet inevitable, part of life. By adopting her tactics, you not only maintain your professionalism, but you also resist the urge to resort to denial or other unhealthy coping methods. As she reminds us, “Your ability to see clearly is precious, and you should be reluctant to sacrifice it in exchange for emotional comfort. The good news is you don’t have to.

Photo by Elisa Ventur