how to avoid being defensive when receiving criticism

The criticism quandary; How to handle criticism and emerge bigger and better for it Part One

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock


At the times in my life when I have faced criticism I found it difficult not to take it as a personal assault. What was the most challenging was when those words were spoken by those closest to me, those that knew me well – those who I both loved and respected.


I find it easier to digest what has been said and objectively assess what I agree with when I reflect, often resolving to work upon the areas that I think are valid in retrospect. But in the moment I find it difficult to avoid being defensive and accept the validity of the criticism received, or parts thereof.


As I learnt about assertiveness more, I discovered ways to identify malicious criticism as opposed to genuine constructive criticism. Although put downs are easy enough to pin point genuine constructive criticism can still sound unconstructive and harsh, after all not everyone is diplomatic and sensitive in their use of language when delivering valid criticism.


In this series I will outline the techniques that have helped me deal with criticism more effectively. When it comes to criticism we no longer need to feel like a victim, we can rather empower ourselves, using it as a catalyst to grow into our best selves.


Top Tips to Distance Yourself from Defensiveness


How to keep your ego in check when receiving criticism

Even the most modest people can suffer from their ego being damaged as a result of criticism and  I can’t deny it was difficult to keep my ego in check when receiving criticism in the past. What helped me was remembering a few key things which reminded me that being defensive is often counter-productive. Please do bear in mind that being defensive is quite different to standing up for yourself, which I will go into in more depth later – please see below for a list of my ‘reminders’ that helped me receive criticism better.


  • I am not perfect
  • I make mistakes
  • I can admit to my mistakes without it being equal to a failure
  • I can learn from my mistakes and become better for it
  • Whoever is criticizing me may be able to offer insights into ways by which I can develop and grow
  • It is important to keep an open mind to different opinions to my own