“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We’ve all heard that one before and it’s just not true. We are humans – words can hurt us and will hurt us at times. But in order to learn as an individual, to grow as an organization, and to advance as a society, it’s imperative that we know how to properly deal with criticism.
Criticism will come at us from every dimension of life, for the rest of our lives. Sports, school, work, writing, speaking, conversing, cooking, dreaming, loving, running, designing, singing, drawing… well, you get the point. Recognizing the many faces of criticism is the first step in developing thick skin.
Once you’ve recognized it, how can you analyze it? Well to start, there are some simple questions to ask:
- Who is giving the criticism?
- What is the nature of and motivation behind the criticism?
- It the criticism valid?
- How can I benefit from the criticism?
- What is the optimal response to the criticism?
The goal is to maintain composure and to address criticism properly. Thick skin still let’s you sweat. Always keep your cool and address criticism with your mind, not with your emotions. Creating anger from internalization of critiques will never be beneficial.
A technique I use for many problems I face is a mathematical construct that involves breaking the problem into its simplest components and then strategically attacking each one. The same construct applies to any type of critique whether personal or professional. Break it down to its underlying motives, objectives, validity, and logic, and derive the proper response and lessons learned.
Lastly, learn to think about others. Don’t be quick to blame someone or to simply deflect criticism because that’s the easy thing to do. Don’t be quick to retaliate with criticism of your own. Think about who is giving the criticism, who the other players are, and how you can optimize your own self without being selfish.
So to summarize, what does having thick skin entail?
- You need to be able to take shots.
- Stay on your feet and stay balanced.
- Do not internalize rejection.
- Understand the genetic makeup of criticism.
- Think about others.
Grow thick skin. It will make you a great leader, a great colleague, and a great friend.
- “Taking shots builds stronger armor.” – Me
- “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” – Harry S. Truman
- “Living well is the best revenge.” – George Herbert
- “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
- “Inner strength shows itself not when the world is praising you but when others are critical.” – Gabriela Cora
Learning to Develop a Thick Skin: Don’t take things personally, don’t let others get to you, remember that everyone gets rejected sometimes, learn to counterpropose when things don’t go your way, learn to meet in the middle, don’t hesitate to unstick sticky situations, don’t be self focused, stop the self-talk, don’t worry about looking stupid, learn to be patient, don’t be quick to blame, think about others
Developing a Thick Skin (from a writer)
Developing a Thick Skin (in IT)
How to Develop a Thick Skin (eHow): Face your fears, never let them see you sweat, continue to improve, stay busy, stay positive and surround yourself with positive people