All of us get criticized at some point, whether in our academic, professional or personal lives. The way we receive and cope with it can impact our relationships and growth. It is natural to feel defensive, hurt, or attacked when receiving criticism. However, learning to respond to it gracefully is important. Criticism well-received can contribute positively to your growth and understanding of self. 


What is Criticism?

Criticism is essentially feedback. It is the evaluation of our behavior, words, work, or actions by other people. It reflects the opinions, expectations, and values of the person providing it. When you understand that criticism is more a reflection of the person who is giving it, you may be more open-minded when receiving it. 

Constructive Criticism

Criticism that is constructive is delivered with the intention to help you improve or make you aware of something. This is usually offered with specific suggestions for improvement. 

Destructive Criticism

Criticism that is destructive is intended to attack, undermine, or put you down. When receiving criticism, think about who is offering it. Is it a trusted friend, colleague, or family member? Or is it coming from someone whose motivation is questionable and has personal biases?


Responding with Grace

Active Listening-min

Responding to criticism in a composed way is key to maintaining relationships, credibility, and peace of mind. Responding to criticism in a non-defensive way does not mean that you are passively accepting it. Rather, you are using it as a tool for introspection and growth. Below are some strategies you can use in order to respond in a composed way.  


Instead of responding immediately to criticism, pause to collect your thoughts and process what has been said. This will help you avoid an impulsive, knee jerk reaction. 

Active Listening

Practice active listening when someone is giving you feedback. This means that you are not just waiting for your turn to speak. To listen actively, maintain eye contact, nod, ask clarifying questions, and reiterate the speaker’s points. This shows that you value their input and are open to feedback. It also leaves a good impression of you in their mind.  

Maintain Composure

It can be tempting to defend yourself or respond emotionally when criticized – especially when you think the criticism is unfounded. However, maintaining a calm demeanor will diffuse tension and exhibit your emotional maturity.

Do Not Shift the Blame

Do Not Shift the Blame

As a mark of your emotional maturity, you will have to take responsibility for your actions and words. A large part of this is to avoid shifting the blame onto others. Acknowledge your contribution to the situations and voice your commitment to improvement. 

Say Thanks

Express gratitude for the feedback. Criticism can be challenging to hear, and often it can be hard for the person offering it to build up the nerve to do so. 

Ask for Clarification

If you find the feedback you receive is vague or too broad, ask the person to be more specific. Request examples and details. This helps you better understand the issue and also communicates your openness to listen. 


Even if you do not agree with the criticism, take some time to think about what was said to you. Sometimes, reflecting on something a few hours or days later can give you a different perspective on it. Assess whether there is validity in some or all of the feedback. Is it possible to use it in order to improve? 

Use Criticism Constructively

After you have reflected on and evaluated the criticism, develop a plan for implementing it. What are the steps you will take towards improvement? Taking this proactive approach can bring about positive change and also demonstrates your commitment to growth and learning. Remember that nobody is perfect, and you do not have to be! We all have room for growth and areas that we can improve on. 

Trust Mental Health has a team of BIPOC therapists that offer depression therapy, anxiety therapy, and therapy for teens in California. Contact us today for a free 15 minute consultation. 



What should my teenager expect during a therapy session?      

During a therapy session, your teenager can expect to talk about their thoughts, feelings, and concerns with the therapist. The therapist may use various therapeutic techniques and activities depending on the teenager’s age and needs.

How can I support my teenager’s therapy process?      

You can support your teenager by being understanding and nonjudgmental, respecting their privacy, and encouraging communication. Be patient and give them space to express themselves in therapy without feeling pressured.

Is therapy only for teenagers with diagnosed mental health conditions?      

Therapy is not exclusively for teenagers with diagnosed mental health conditions. It can be valuable for any teenager facing challenges or seeking support in navigating the complexities of adolescence.