How well do you handle criticism? On a scale of 1-7, 7 being best, how good are you at this essential success skill? Since most people operate through fear and scarcity, they tend to react hyper-emotionally to criticism. The masters of handling criticism respond to it through logic-based, unemotional thinking and are able to separate the truth from the fiction. The bottom-line benefit is the value in what we learn from the truth of the criticism. In 26 years of interviewing self-made millionaires, this is one of the skills they’ve most often cited as a substantial contributing factor to their success. Watch this short video and see what you think. As always, I’ll look forward to your comments. Steve Siebold ( 3:24 )

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Steve Siebold
Author and Professional Speaker since 1997. Past Chairman of the National Speakers Association's Million Dollar Speakers Group. Author of 11 books with 1.4 million copies in print.

32 thoughts on “Mental Toughness and Criticism”

  1. Hi Steve

    This is a great post because alot of people ( including me! ) can be sensitive to criticism that especially hits home.For example,I oversee a Toastmasters club in the Chicago area.We have a segment in the meeting called “Table Topics” where you need to speak spontaneously from 1 – 2 minutes.I have a good sense of humor so usually enjoy getting up there,but occasionally ramble on about nothing and can “feel” the audience just staring @ me.I feel myself physically blush and abruptly stop what I’m saying to avoid the discomfort.No one has ever verbally criticized for this,but assume what audience is thinking.

    The hard part might be taking the emotion out of it.We are all emotional people.To be like “Dr. Spock” and think straight logic takes a huge discipline.

  2. Steve,

    I wouldn’t worry about the death threats from fat people. You can probably outrun them!

  3. Steve-

    I feel the criticism is something that comes with success. (The more successful you are the more you stand out.) Criticism typically comes from individuals who have different belief systems then you do. Just think: You would not receive criticism from someone who has the same fashion style as you do. They will be more willing to compliment you. Yet, if you were to dress differently you might get criticism. For example: If you wore baggy jeans that hang half way down your hips and then you had some one is dressed in a suite in tie, it is possible that there is going to be criticism. It really boils down to your thoughts. As a business owner, I really do not care about the criticism I receive. I just understand that they have a different view point and they are not the population of people that I am trying to reach.

    1. Joe,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on criticism. I agree with everything you said, but I think the real problem isn’t the logical explanation of criticism and how to handle it. If that’s all it was, it would be easy. The problem is when emotional thinking kicks in and clouds our decison making and ability to reason through logic. I spend half my time as a mental tougness coach for sales teams trying to help them seperate emotional thinking from logical thinking. Most people blend the two, which results in diasters like the obesity epidemic, financial meltdown, and other catastrophies. As Mike Michelozzi always say’s; your thoughts?

  4. I think that for a lot of people (and I’m at the top of this list!), reacting emotionally to criticism is habitual. As in – you just do it, without really thinking about it.

    Mental toughness tasks you to interrupt that habit, and replace it with another one: listening without reacting.

    Easy to say – hard to do. Maybe I need to get criticized more, so that I can develop the right habit!

    Thanks, Steve!

  5. Steve, you are exactly right. The best criticism I have ever received was honest, especially interms of my tennis playing. I once had a coach tell me outright that I _________(and he didn’t use this word, but you can probably guess what it is). I only became a better tennis player when I decided that I was being criticized honestly and fairly. Once I got over the sting of this statement, (it took me about three weeks!) I began to notice my ‘middle class” approach, and realized that in the scheme of terriffic tennis play – I was lazy, deluded, and my coach was absolutely right. He did me one of the greatest services of my entire life. From then on, I have made it a habit to deconstruct every ounce of criticism I receive about everything – and decide what is useful about it. Great post!

    1. Ouch! That must have stung a little! Glad it ended up helping you, though, Marilyn. Thanks for your comment.

  6. When is it constructive criticism and when is it just criticism? My husband like to tell me something to change and then tell me “You need to learn to take CC!”. I see it as he’s just pointing out fault. Is that where I’m wrong? That I should be trying to better myself, regardless what his motive is?

    1. Meg,
      Whether criticism is constructive or destructive is determined by the person receiving it. After being married for 26 years, I’ve learned to avoid criticism unless it’s absolutley necessary. I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m just saying it can be a real problem with someone so close. Of all the criticism I’ve received from my wife over the years, I must admit that I can’t recall any that wasn’t constructive. I probably didn’t think so when I first heard it because I let emotion interfere with my ability to reason, but after I improved my skills, it was much easier and very beneficial. The bottom line was most of it was very accurate. I would think of your spouses criticism as well-intentioned and use it to improve your ability to process it and use it to help you improve. Does anyone else have any other suggestions on this?

  7. It’s a tough one, especially when unjustified. It’s much easier when you seek out criticism, for example, evaluations in Toastmasters club meetings, or asking for comments on your latest accomplisment. We need that other perspective in order to grow!

    1. Denise,
      I’m going to take the opposite view and say the unjustified criticism is easier to process than the justified criticism. For example, after I appeared on the Today Show and Good Morning America I had three death threats. The BBC in Europe provided security for me in London. It was crazy. All I said was getting fat is our own fault and people should take responsibility for their own health. That 4th grade common sense, wouldn’t you agree?
      If I showed you the hate mail I received for the next three months you wouldn’t believe it. My point is it didn’t really bother me much, because they were criticizing me for telling the truth. Their letters and attacks in the media made them look like emotionally-charged children have a hissy-fit. On the other hand, the criticism that did and does affect me is when the premise has an element of truth to it, such as when i’m criticized for being blunt an direct in speeches and on TV and radio. I use the direct style because it works, but some people are too emotional to understand my motive as a coach. I still use the style, but the criticism is fair and it bothers me when people miss the point and feel hurt. The lesson I take from it is to improve my delivery skill every day. Thanks for your thoughts, Denise. Does anyone else care to comment on this?

  8. First of all you are great! And you are a Mentor!!!

    As far as criticism. My big problem is not the part where I am reacting strongly to what they say. It’s that I have let myself become misdirected from my goal because I was taking the criticism as valid!!! Not all criticism is valid.

    My biggest lesson is that until the person really understands the WHAT and WHY of my project, any other questions they ask tell me they are just talking with no real understanding or interest.

    Best wishes.

  9. This lesson spoke to me the loudest of all your mental toughness messages so far this year Steve. You did touch a nerve, it’s a good thing you are far enough away from me as to not feel the knee-jerk kick. ๐Ÿ˜‰ what can I say? I’m a work in progress as we all are. I also watch the youtube video that Paul Armenat posted here. what a one, two punch. I think I’ll go take a nap now. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. As always, Steveโ€ฆ Your excitement and enthusiasm and love for what you do is always evident in your countenance. I’m convinced there are few that love their work is much as you do, and it reflects in everything you do.
    Maximum Impact…keep it up!
    Great replies folks…

  11. It’s interesting, Steve….When I went through the Gove training I wasn’t familiar with your mental toughness work. Now I find myself studying it even more. What helps me in regards to this post, mental toughness and criticism, is using the E+R=O formula. Event + Response = Outcome. Is my response an emotional reaction, or am I applying mental toughness so that the R becomes “emotional competence” instead? Does the “R” have mental toughness embedded, or not? I’m finding this approach to be a key for me in learning to apply it.

    Much appreciated!

    1. Barry,
      I think the “R” for response is accurate, but it’s an oversimplifcation. I also think you’re right about adding emotion to the equation, especially when it involves criticism.

  12. we can only feel criticised if we are stuck in our own `rightness` and feel it is an attack on our identity, whatever that might be..

  13. GREAT video Steve! Absolutely one of the hardest skills to develop and also critical to success. Thanks – I’ll pass the video along!

  14. Good point – analyze logically, take out the truth, use it as learning material, don’t let criticism demotivate yourself ๐Ÿ™‚

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