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11 steps to deal (and learn) with criticism



The path of martial arts mastery is full of challenges, one of which is criticism. Criticism has the power to hurts an individual's self-esteem, causing psychological damage and rendering the victim less effective. At the same time, criticism can be a tool that can greatly help martial arts improvement. The difference between helpful and hurtful is simply a matter of how the criticism is dealt with. Here are a few steps to help using criticism as a tool of self improvement.

By Crimfants ( [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Reacting to criticism  

1- Listen to what is being said  

I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant. (Robert McCloskey )

Take a step back and listen. Let the speaker express himself. Until you have heard what the speaker has to say, you do not know the content of the criticism, so you should assume that the criticism is justified and constructive. You never know, you might benefit from it.


2- Don't respond immediately  

Anger is one letter short of danger.  (Author Unknown)

Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.  (Ambrose Bierce)

It is best to wait a little before responding. If we respond with feelings of anger or injured pride we will soon regret it. If we wait patiently it can enable us to reflect in a calmer way.

Fighting criticism with defensiveness often leads to petty arguments. The problem with arguments is that you can never win. Even if you have all facts on your side and win the argument, you may hurt the other person's feelings, potentially leading to resentment from the other party.That is why it is best to simply keep listening.

The next time you make an incorrect technique, that person may not be so quick to point it out, leaving you to with your incorrect ways.


3- Ask the speaker if he has anything else he would like to add.  

Asking for more criticism often catches the speaker by surprise, since not many people accept criticism, let alone ask for more. The goal is not to destabilize the speaker but rather to get more information, either on the fault being pointed at or on the motive of the speaker.


4- Smile and thank the person for his feedback.  

By zitona qatar from doha, qatar [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Smiling helps prevent, or at least ease what could be a tense situation. It also shows the other person that you respect his opinion and do not feel insulted by it. Smiling may also motivate the other person to moderate his approach. Chances are the other person was not trying to hurt your pride or your feelings. Along with your smile, be gracious and thank the speaker for taking the time to point out some of your faults.


Analysis of the criticism  

5- Consider the source (of the criticism)  

Considering the source means to reflect on what was said, no matter who the speaker was. Whether or not his skill levels are superior to yours make no difference in the what is being criticize on. In other words, do not dismiss any feedback or criticism solely based on who is the one delivering it. Think of what is the real object of what is being criticized.

Fundamentals: Perhaps, there is something you do that is fundamentally wrong. Being wrong with fundamentals often happens with beginners, but that doesn't mean experts make no mistakes, and that applies to any sphere of life. If it is the case, then the criticism is fully justified and should be embraced constructively.

Cultural or environmental: It may be that fundamentally, the aspect pointed out is not entirely wrong, only not adapted to the current situation or environment. For example, Kicking  may not be bad nor wrong, yet it remains unacceptable in a boxing match.

Ignorance: Sometimes, a criticism may come from the ignorance of a critic. In other terms, the aspect being criticized is, at least in some perspective, neither fundamentally or culturally wrong. Perhaps, it is the critics views or perspective that are somewhat incorrect.


6- Understand the motivation behind the criticism  

Just like an object remains motionless unless an external force moves it, people don't act unless they have a motivation to do so. Behind every critic hides a motivation...

Care: Although the delivery of the message may be painful, the messenger may be well intentioned. Criticizing is some peoples way of teaching. It may not be the most effective way to teach, but it may be preferable to its alternative: being ignored.

Jealousy: Perhaps, you are doing something impressively well, which render the criticizer jealous. Criticizing may be a way for him to convince himself that although you are better than him in an area, you are in no way superior to him, as there are areas in which he (thinks he) is superior.

Show off: To some, criticizing another is a way of attracting attention to their own ability. By criticizing you, they indirectly showcase their knowledge and sometimes even their feats and accomplishments.

Frustration, rant: Perhaps, the person is frustrated by a situation for which you (nor he) have no control over and somehow associates your actions with the source of his frustration. For example, someone who doesn't like boxing may criticize a martial arts practitioner for having a fighting stance similar to a boxer's.   Sometimes, the trainer will criticize his protegee as an outlet of frustration for not being able to coach his student to his (often unrealistic) expectations. This type of criticism rarely leads to improvement and may be ignored.

No reason: Some people are like that. They just criticize people as a hobby.  Aside from the fact that they seem to enjoy the attention it gets them, they perhaps also enjoy the pain it causes.


Processing the feedback  

7- Don't take it personally  

It's hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head.  (Sally Kempton)

It is most likely that the criticism was a clumsy attempt to help as opposed to a personal attack. Insults are a much more effective way of hurting someone. Even if the criticism constituted a verbal attack, there may still be bits of information that may help improve one's self. Simply remove any personal attack and concentrate on points of which you can improve yourself.


8- Learn from it  

A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her.  (David Brinkley)

Extract the value from another person's perspective. There may be aspects that you do not see about yourself that need correction. If you learn to properly process criticism, you may be able to uncover weaknesses unknown to yourself. With a motivated spirit and strong dedication, you may overcome those weaknesses and ultimately, become stronger.


Dealing with hurt feelings (if any)  

By Jesslee Cuizon (originally posted to Flickr as free 'sweet' hugs) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

So far, the steps described were rational and analytic. For many, the steps above will be very difficult to apply, because of hurt feelings. Short of being able to personally console and hug someone whose feelings got hurt from criticism, here are a few advice that may help.

9- Let go of your anger  

  • Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.  (Buddha)
  • To carry a grudge is like being stung to death by one bee.  (William H. Walton)


10- Believe in yourself  

  • Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.  (Eleanor Roosevelt)
  • Success comes in cans, not cant's.  (Author Unknown)
  • Of all our infirmities, the most savage is to despise our being.  (Michel de Montaigne)
  • People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success. (Norman Vincent Peale)
  • It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not. (Unknown)


11- Stop seeking approval from others 

  • Put your future in good hands - your own.  (Author Unknown)
  • If you really put a small value upon yourself, rest assured that the world will not raise your price.   (Author Unknown)
  • Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstance.  (Bruce Barton)
  • To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)



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Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 May 2011 22:23  

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