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7 Thoughts on Responding to Criticism (because you will be criticized)

June 5, 2017

If you are a leader you are going to be criticized.  And if you are a significant leader you are going to be significantly criticized.  It honestly doesn’t matter if you are a good leader or not.  That is just how it is.  People criticize leaders.  Always have.  Always will.  Get used to it.

That leaders are criticized is probably not surprising.  We all know that criticism goes with leadership and we know it can get ugly (did anyone see the US Presidential Election?).  But did I mention you will also be criticized if you are not a leader?  Well, now I did.  Take a moment to take it all in and catch your breath.  You get criticized not matter what.  Sorry you had to hear it here.  Contemplate the unfairness of it.  Now let’s move on.

I am sometimes asked how I deal with criticism and my response is simple.  I don’t.  I don’t defend myself.  I don’t vilify people who criticize me.  I control my impulses.  I don’t lash out.  Sure it can sting but the reality is that I don’t really think much about criticism at all.  Frankly, my critics are not who I am trying to please.

If you sometimes feel a bit “thin skinned” at times, here is some advice from a guy who has been in the trenches of leadership for a few decades:

  1. Realize criticism is inevitable No matter what you do, how successful you are or how good your past decisions or track record may have been, you are going to be criticized. Don’t be naïve.
  2. Remember critics sometimes have a point Our default can’t be to immediately dismiss ALL criticism. Our default must be to ask, “Do they have a point?”  Sometimes they do.  If so, you have been given a painful gift but a gift nonetheless.  Often they don’t but you still have to ask the question.
  3. Take heart that criticism gets to you less as time goes on This seems too good to be true but it is true! Blisters turn to calluses and skin really does get thicker over time.  The longer you have been at it, the tougher you get.
  4. Guard your personal integrity Don’t give critics extra ammunition. Failure to self manage will destroy you.  It will also damage the people who love you.  Unfair or undue criticism will not.
  5. Realize you won’t always get it right We don’t always say the things we should say, do the things we should do or react the way we should react. Develop a learning curve, grow from your mistakes and don’t expect perfection (from others or yourself).
  6. Don’t obsess on your press (good or bad) You are seldom as good as your fans think or as bad as your enemies think. Some of the best decisions I have made as a leader were the most hotly criticized.  Some bad ones were initially applauded.  Public opinion ebbs and flows.  Good decisions hold firm and stand the test of time.
  7. Square up Before you go to bed each night, look into the mirror. Make sure you are “good” with the human being you see; how you treated people and how you went about business today.  If you and mirror are squared up, let the world work around you.

Criticism is inevitable.  Anticipate it.  Hold steady.  Learn from it.

And sleep like a baby…

Shane Memphis

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997

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