Tell Me But I Won’t Listen: How to deal with criticism

I’m only 29 which I consider young (if I’m in denial let me know) and because of my youth I still feel like I have a few things to prove.  I don’t know why considering I’m surrounded with people who trust me and give me a great amount of responsibility.  I just notice when someone comes up to me to critique my leadership, speaking, writing, etc. I get a little defensive.  I’ll admit I’ve gotten better because parents use to write me emails critiquing my ministry, I took them as attacks; therefore, I wrote back an epic of an email explaining why they were misguided and misinformed and should get their facts straight.  Let’s just say I’ve broken that habit.

Today I still get defensive; however, I don’t feel as if I have as much to prove.  I don’t feel as defensive and part of it’s maturity but I’ve also learned a few steps that I now apply to deal with the criticism that comes from parents, pastors, teenagers, church members, coworkers, etc.

  • Make Email A Midday Thing – Don’t check your email first thing in the day or last thing in the evening.  If you receive something negative it’ll set the precedent for the day or affect who you see or how you sleep at home.  Unless you are looking for something specific try to check email after you have had time to settle into your day.  Give yourself some time to vent and relax before you go home.  Whether false or true you know that not all criticism is easy to shake.
  • Thank Them – If someone is critiquing how you are speaking, leading, writing, interacting with students make sure you thank them.  Even if the criticism is something you know or don’t agree with thanking is an important gesture because it builds humility; however, it also shows that you are willing to listen.  As leaders we need to show that we are open to insight and advice.  Thanking someone also diffuses any tension they may be feeling towards sharing their thoughts.
  • Know It’s Not Always You – Sometimes a critique is really just someone venting about something that has nothing to do with you.  Someone might send you a nasty email telling you that your program is ineffective.  My first reaction is to write back an even nastier email; however, if you look at the words, or if you listen to the tone of someone’s voice often you can tell it’s not about you, you just happen to be in their focus at the time.  I say let them vent and then usually you can diffuse the situation by arranging another time to meet in person to further talk out the issue.
  • Offer It Up To God – Taking critique, feedback or criticism is an emotional process and something that we need to constantly give over to God.  I know when I’m tired and drained if I receive even the slightest comment I’m going to flip.  We need to consistently ask God for His patience, love, mercy and grace.  If we don’t we’ll find ourselves growing jaded, disgruntle and even burnt out.

Criticism shouldn’t always be received as negative, Jesus was criticized and all it did was confirm that He was moving in the right direction.  As youth workers we just need to know how to handle the situation. I know there are other great tips for handling criticism and sometimes we can create environments and situations that make it easier to handle.

I would encourage other ministers reading this to share their insight and feedback on what they have done when they’ve been critiqued?