On receiving criticism, listen rather than immediately responding on the defensive. Work to stay calm and relaxed and be clear about what is being said rather than jumping to conclusions. By behaving as though criticism is not something to get upset about, you get the chance for some information about what prompted the criticism in the first place and this can be valuable feedback.

You may begin by saying “yes…” and then:

  1. Try to understand and acknowledge the perception and/or option.
    “.. it must seem as though I am always late..”
  2. Understand and acknowledge the others feelings.
    “.. I think I can understand why you might feel angry..” .
  3. Consider which of the following is accurate and respond accordingly.

If the criticism is true

Agree with the criticism and possible add some (true) self disclosure.

“It’s true I have been late on the last two occasions and it was inconsiderate of me.” or “Yes, I am intense and I like that quality in myself.” or “I know the report is not as good as it could be and I feel unhappy about my report writing skills.” or“I know the reports is not as good as it could be but I am practising and getting better.” or “Yes, I know I am untidy”.

If the criticism is partly true

Agree with the criticism plus a qualification.

“I am late on this occasion but I have never been late before.” or“I did make a mistake but I am not always incompetent.” or “Yes I am late but I do have a very good reason.” or “It’s true I didn’t finish off that piece of work but it’s not true that I am lazy.”

If the criticism is unfounded

Disagree with the criticism.

“That is untrue. I was speaking honestly.” or “On the contrary, 1 know I am sensitive to others feelings.” or “I am not late. The time agreed at our last meeting was 8pm.” or “I disagree. I am a perfectly competent …”



  • Deny what is said
  • Say something good about yourself
  • Make it clear that you dislike the other person’s behaviour
  • Repeat your message as often as necessary
  • Repeat it the next time the put-down is used

Receiving criticism

  • Listen carefully – is there any truth in it?
  • Make sure you understand why it is given
  • Clarify eg: “give me an example”
  • Decide whether it is true
  • If unsure ask others
  • Decide to change your behaviour if this is useful

If it’s true…

  • agree with it
  • explain how you feel
  • ask why it matters

If it’s partly true…

  • agree with the bit that’s partly true
  • say how you feel
  • make clear that the rest is untrue

If it’s untrue…

  • reject the criticism
  • add your positive thoughts
  • ask for an explanation

Giving criticism

  • Know what you want to say and why
  • Which specific behaviour are you criticising
  • Choose the right time and place
  • Use specific words and avoid generalisations
  • Comment on the behaviour and not on the person
  • Say how you feel
  • Say the changes you’d like to see
  • Acknowledge the person’s right to accept or reject the criticism
  • Express willingness to discuss the issue and work out a joint solution
  • State what you have agreed
en English