Criticism is tough for most people. When we are criticized, we often develop a reaction to what is being said which makes us feel as though we are under attack. It's only natural to impulsively defend one's self under such circumstances.

Granted, some criticisms are malicious and unwarranted, but all of them are not without merit. Because of the fragile nature of the ego, psychologists encourage people to carefully phrase and present their criticisms as "constructive feedback."

Constructive feedback is defined as criticism that has a "kind" goal of improving some area of another person's life or work. It originated from the critique of someone else's written or artistic work, in perhaps a teacher/student setting. It was meant as a way that would allow the person receiving feedback to further improve their work or to improve their approach to future endeavors.

Constructive feedback can also apply to a critical reasoned analysis of a person's behavior, as in a patient/therapist setting or a group therapy setting. Parents also try to employ constructive feedback to help their children improve their lives.

Experts agree that whether or not feedback works largely depends on how it's presented.

Constructive feedback is a very effective method of reducing the alienation of employees and co-workers who have a propensity for political correctness, but on a personal level, it's harder to implement with people outside of that sphere.

In either arena, egos are accompanied by emotions that dutifully protect and preserve them. Outside of a professional environment, we are more likely to get unfiltered criticism from those who do not have a high regard for sensitivity. And most likely, the criticism comes unannounced.

While we can't control when or how criticisms may befall us, we can control how we respond to them. Yes, it's tough to do, but it's also beneficial to do it.

When you are open to the message behind any criticism, you are open to learning - about your behavior, efforts, or work. It's important to recognize this because criticism is never about you; it's about your behavior, efforts, or work. All of them can be changed - and improved - with the critical feedback from others.

It doesn't matter whether we call it criticism or feedback. What matters is that it feels like criticism. This is why we must emotionally diffuse and distance ourselves from our egocentric tendencies which make us turn a deaf ear to it, or become defensive in their wake.

Coaches, managers, supervisors, teachers, and parents are routinely placed in positions where they have to be critical. The nature of the relationships that they have with others makes it appropriate and expected. Many of the aforementioned will fully, and successfully, embrace their power to influence and impact others by offering criticisms which draw attention to efforts.

Efforts (or lack thereof) are the root cause of most criticisms. Some say it's lack of results. But what results can you achieve without effort? When the person being criticized learns to separate his or herself from the criticism, full concentration can be placed on the efforts (or lack thereof) which caused the criticism in the first place.

Typically, greater effort exerted, or properly directed, to eliminate a counter productive behavior, or to increase the odds of succeeding in a particular endeavor, activity, or undertaking will silence both criticism, and the critics.

A random sampling of successful people reveals that when others who were both critical and supportive of them in the early stages of their lives and/or careers, they experienced the greatest influence on their development. People grow as a result of being pushed. Criticism provides that push. When people are pushed often, and hard enough to put forth greater efforts, or better direct them, growth and confidence occurs.

When criticism is withheld - especially in the early stages of life or in professional pursuits - people operate under a cloud of delusion, and false confidence occurs. It quickly turns to despair (or even depression) when they are confronted with the truth about their deficiencies. Withholding criticism from others may be the "polite" thing to do in the moment, but it's not a caring or supportive one in the long term.

If you are a person who reacts (with emotions) instead of responds (with receptiveness) to criticism, try to be still (and quiet) when it's aimed it you. Thank the person who gave it to you and ask them to elaborate on the criticism. Then sit with it for hours, days, or weeks if necessary to embrace its truth. Then go to work to correct it. You will have taken the first step towards a better you; one who is adept at impersonalizing criticism and using it to improve the quality of your work, or to create change.

Author's Bio: 

Gian Fiero is a speaker and author who lectures throughout the country.