Constructive Criticism: Can You Handle The Heat Of Criticism?

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Can you handle criticism? This week's Quick Study takes a look at six common responses. | Shutterstock

Nobody likes to be told they're wrong, but sometimes, it's the truth. But if we can't handle the heat, does that automatically mean we should look for a new job?

According to a new survey by career testing and online personality test site, employees who can't handle constructive criticism are more likely to be unhappy with their jobs and have lower performance ratings. Not surprisingly, the survey also found that people who were able to take harsh criticism were more likely to succeed in their jobs.

“When we assessed the role that self-esteem plays as it relates to the ability to take criticism, we found that those who became the most defensive were also more likely to have the lowest level of self-esteem,” explains Dr. Ilona Jerabek, president of PsychTests in a press release.

Criticism can be anything from a typo in a presentation to your boss recognizing your hard work. Both types of criticism can affects us, either hurting us or making us feel better about ourselves. For most people, receiving negative criticism can either stop them from performing to their potential or make them avoid new challenges in fear of being judged, according to

But no matter the outcome, the survey found that men and women took criticism quite differently. Women were more likely to direct their defensiveness inwards and be harder on themselves, while men took their defensiveness outwards by arguing with the critic in order to protect their egos.

Nobody likes to be told their business plan wasn't up to par, but there are ways to overcome a negative mindset. According to, trying to take criticism positively starts with ignoring your gut instinct — so don't blurt out the first thing you think of. The site also adds writing down your feedback, saying thanks and asking for a follow-up are all effective ways to deal with a critic.

And it doesn't matter if you're an all-star athlete or an average Joe working a desk job — the experts at say everyone receives criticism and most people react the same way.

How do you handle criticism? Are you a human punching bag? Or do you fight back? If you're not sure how you'd handle a critic, has also put together a sensitivity quiz to help you figure it out.

Quick Poll

How do you handle criticism?


LOOK: The six most common responses to criticism:

6 Responses To Criticism
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Negative Thoughts Towards The Critic:
SITUATION: Your boss gives you critical feedback
HOW YOU REACT: You direct your negative thoughts towards him or her, rather than self-evaluating yourself. You may also think people are jealous of your work ethic and ideas, or you think they dislike you

Negative Thoughts Towards Self:
SITUATION: Someone gives you criticism at work
HOW YOU REACT: You direct your negative thoughts towards yourself and think you're a 'bad' employee or incompetent

Negative Emotional Response Towards Others:
SITUATION: A co-worker calls you out on an assignment or typo
HOW YOU REACT: If you're responding to others, this criticism will make you feel angry, bitter and resentful

Negative Emotional Response Towards Self:
SITUATION: You get criticized, but take it very personally
REACTION: After the incident, you feel upset or embarrassed about the criticism, and don't feel like yourself

Negative Behaviour:
SITUATION: You get criticism and lash out
REACTION: Instead of rationalizing with the critic, you decide to argue back, possibly even threatening to quit

Passive Aggressive Behaviour:
SITUATION: This response would definitely be the worst.
REACTION: Instead of working on your flaws or talking it out with your critic, you completely ignore them and continue with your actions. You might purposely slack off, secretly look for a new job and not make any of the recommended changes

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