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3 Questions on How To Handle Criticism

If you are moving forward in life, it won’t be long before someone criticizes something you say, do or don’t do. Though it is never easy, I think it is possible to handle criticism with dignity, poise, and grace.

In early 2015, things were really looking up at the church where I serve as Pastor. People were coming to church, lives were being changed, and God was helping our church family grow.

But in spite of all the good things happening, one simple comment brought my world crashing down. Someone came up to me one day after service and shared with me their dislike of something we did during the service. That one comment took me from high to low. I know the person who shared with me has a good heart and was simply trying to be helpful, but the negative comment shattered my world at that moment.

As much as I wanted to just brush off that comment and forget all about it, I decided to use it as a teachable moment for myself. I have learned that we cannot discount criticism from other people as it can help us to grow, even if it’s hard to hear. I encourage you to lean in when you are criticized and evaluate the criticism from a logical, analytical standpoint so that you can learn, grow and become better because of it instead of sad, frustrated, or angry.

Here are three questions you should ask yourself when you face criticism so that you can use it to improve and become even better in your life:

1. Is there any truth to what is being said?

This is an extremely important question to ask yourself when facing criticism. We may not like what we hear or the manner in which the criticism was expressed, but we should not ignore the truth behind the words. This question is best answered once our emotions have subsided and we have the ability to think objectively about what was said.

2. Are they a foe, fan, or a friend?

We need to ask ourselves which one of these three categories the critics fall under so that we can determine the validity of the criticism and understand how to move forward.

 FoeMichael Hyatt calls these people trolls: “These people have an agenda. They are out to hurt you— or at least use you for their own ends. They want to lure you into a fight. I have had three this week. They taunt and mock you. They are unreasonable. If you engage them, they will only distract you and deplete your resources. The best thing you can do is ignore them. As someone once said, ‘resistance only makes them stronger.’ You will never satisfy them. Just keep doing what you know you are called to do.”

Fan: Fans are those who always tell you that you are doing a good job. We all enjoy encouragement in the things we do, but these people may simply be telling you you’re amazing because that’s what they do. Remember that fans may be people who don’t know you well enough to give critical feedback.

Friend: A friend is someone who wants the best for you and is not afraid to give you honest feedback. A friend knows you well and has a desire for you to reach your God-given potential. When friends give criticism or feedback, make sure you pay close attention to it and use it to improve.

3. What do I do with the criticism?

No matter who was critical to you or the manner in which they spoke their words, you can grow from the incident. Remember, growth only occurs when resistance is added.

If you know the criticism given is true, you need to ask yourself, “What can I do to better myself in this area?” This is a key for you to get better from the criticism instead of bitter.

If the criticism is not true, you should ask yourself if the person who shared it with you knows you well. If the answer is yes, you may want to have a follow-up conversation with them to clear the air. If the answer is no, you may want to simply brush off the comments and move forward.

Regardless of what you do, don’t let bitterness take root when someone is critical of you. Yes, this will require you to be intentional, but feedback can be a great catalyst for growth. Some of the toughest criticism I have received has resulted in some of my most beneficial growth.

How can this post help you with handling recent criticism? Would you add anything to this list?

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock

Change is a word that gets some excited but makes others cringe. Regardless of which side of the fence you are on, change is going to happen.

I became the lead pastor of a church when I was 29. It was the same church I had attended since my early twenties. While the ministry had experienced many years of success, it also had a few challenging seasons before I became the pastor.

A few years into my tenure, I realized the church needed a major overhaul. In the fall of 2013, I called a leadership meeting to discuss this. I shared my heart about the need for change. We decided we would evaluate every person on staff and every program in the church, and after making the needed changes we would re-launch the church.

I thought the change process would take six months and then we would be ready to re-launch. Instead, it took sixteen months. Once we re-launched, we saw new life come to the church. The process definitely challenged me and taught me a few things about leading change in an organization.

1. Change is hard. There, I said it. When you decide a major change is needed in an organization- especially one that has been around for a while- the course will be tough. Change is hard, but the consequences of staying the same are harder. I heard someone say you have to decide between two pains— the pain of change or the pain of slowly dying.

2. Change must begin with the leader. If you personally are not growing and changing, your organization will not change; change begins at the top. During my season of change, my leadership skills grew by leaps and bounds. I read books, attended conferences, prayed earnestly, and got help from peers and coaches.

3. Not everyone wants change. You may wrongly believe everyone in your organization will agree on the need to change, but this is often not the case. When people don’t see a need for change, they may resist it. There are always some who enjoy things the way they are. Many times those resistant to change have the loudest voices.

4. Not everyone will still be there after the change. This is always a tough one. It’s never easy when people are no longer part of a church or organization. While you should never intentionally push people away, some people will leave when things are not the way they were yesterday.

If you are truly making some big changes, chances are you may have to adjust roles or let some people go. I heard Joyce Meyer say that every time the bus stops, someone gets on and someone gets off the bus. This is something you are going to have to be all right with.

5. Not everything has to change. Before we re-launched our church, I thought everything needed an overhaul. After evaluating, I realized some things still served our ultimate purpose. In the end, many- but not all- things changed. The change is needed only if it helps us move towards our desired outcome. We should never change simply for the sake of change.

6. Change is worth it. The last few years have been incredibly challenging, but well worth it. Yes, it was tough and some members weren’t fans and left the church, yet the fruit that came, in the end, was worth it. We are a few years past that first meeting, and I am so glad we moved forward.

There are a lot of things I am still learning, but here are a few tidbits to help you lead change:

1. Be clear on why you need to change. If you are not clear on why change is needed, no one else will be. For you, it could be a shifting market, a change in culture, or that the organization has hit its life cycle. If you are not clear and passionate about why you’re changing, you may not make it through the process. The why behind the change is more important than the what. People need to know why we can’t stay where we are.

2. Get buy-in from key people. Before telling everyone about the change, you need buy-in from key stakeholders. These may be direct reports, managers, board members, or key volunteers. Give these people time to think about what you are proposing and give you feedback. I believe it’s best to make decisions together. Scripture tells us there is safety in the multitude of counsel. Once they have bought into your ideas, these key people can add keen insight and be your greatest champions of the vision.

3. Over-communicate change. You can’t talk about your desired change in one meeting and expect everyone to get it. It may be something you have been thinking about for months or even years, so not everyone will get it the first time. Talk about the change in your meetings and emails, on social media, and via other communication outlets. Give your employees or members of your organization a chance to absorb the information in various forms.

4. Celebrate the small wins. We need to stop and celebrate the incremental changes happening along the way. This will communicate your desired change but in a different tone. Sending someone a thank you note, rewarding your team with dinner, or publicly acknowledging a job well done goes a long way. It communicates, “This is exactly what we are looking for.”

When you start on the journey to change an organization, change may not be immediate, but it will be well worth it.

What step do you need to take today to make the needed changes in your organization? Are there any other points you would like to add that is not listed here?