How to Respond to Unfair Critics without Bloodshed

Leadership includes the authority to act without asking permission. The downside of authority is unfair criticism.

Action invites criticism.

“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” (Attributed to Aristotle.)

Criticism stings because you care what people think of you.

Responding to criticism is leadership opportunity.

Chess pieces.

It's a waste of mental resources to criticize a critic.

4 powers of criticism:

  1. Demotivation. Even done well, criticism can deflate the best of us.
  2. Protection from catastrophe. Timely criticism has prevented many train wrecks.
  3. Strained relationships. It takes a mountain of good will to sustain a relationship through criticism.
  4. Retaliation. If you think you’ve escaped the inclination to retaliate, you’re confused.

Responding to unfair criticism:

Reflect, don’t retaliate.

Arrogance prevents growth. Humility learns and grows.

All criticism includes muddy misconception. No one fully understands your actions. Search for the gold in the mud.

Good intentions are no exemption from correction or criticism. You tried to do the right thing, but it turned out wrong.

Compliment, don’t criticize.

It’s a waste of mental resources to criticize a critic.

Compliments for critics:

  • Notice heart. Thank you for caring about this.
  • Notice values. Excellence is important to you.
  • Notice action. Thank you for speaking up.

Perceive, don’t pontificate.

Critics say more about themselves than they say about you.

Emmet Fox said, “Criticism is an indirect form of self-boasting.”

  • What do you know about critics from the things that set them off?
  • How might you channel their energy for positive results?

Fuel up, don’t fall down:

Would you advise anyone to let others run their life? No! Then never let a critic be the reason you throw in the towel.

John Wooden said, “You can’t let criticism or praise get to you.” Praise is a bigger test than criticism, but the fear of unfair criticism prevents action.

How might leaders respond to unfair criticism?