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Am I the Only One Who Responds Negatively to Criticism?

Updated on March 9, 2012

Do you respond well to criticism? I know I don't.

Just to clear it up, this is in direct relation to the last Hub I wrote (or am I supposed to say "Published"?) I wrote a Hub about grammar; how I didn't feel it was the end-all be-all of writing, and I was completely blown-away by the response I got.

So, I've gone and got off track again, if you've been reading my Hubs so far, you won't be surprised.

Anyway, back to what I was saying. I received a snotty, little comment about my grammar, or more accurately, my disability when it comes to it. I reacted badly to this, something I seem to do quite well. It's been a few days and I've calmed significantly.

This is usually how it plays out when I read a criticism of my work (I'll keep this about criticism for my writing, not personal criticism, because that is a whole other story, which usually ends with me having to purchase flowers, or an uncomfortable phone call that I inevitably make the next day to apologize for my actions the night before) Needless to say, I'm not the kind of person who responds well to a negative evaluation of my work, constructive or otherwise. To me, every critique is the same and I take it as a personal attack on my soul, even if it was intended to make me a better person/writer/lover/beatboxer.

There are 7 phases I go through when I receive criticism. Let's say I'm reading a critique about an article I wrote.

I start off by reading the review, the second it gets a little bit unfavorable, we enter Phase 1. I feel a surge of heat across my face and neck. I don't need to be standing in front of a mirror to tell that my visage is beet-red within thirty seconds.

Next is phase 2 (obviously). By now, I'm fully and whole-heartedly offended. My first instinct is to lash out and respond to what I've just read. In some instances, I've even gone as far as writing a nasty e-mail to the person who wrote the review. I must admit that this doesn't happen nearly as much as it used to, because I've learned to walk away from the keyboard when I feel the urge to compose hate e-mails. Of course, I've never actually sent one of these e-mails, because by the time I'm done writing them, I'm usually on to the next phase.

Phase 3 I've titled either, "Cooling Off", or, "de-Hulking" (I'm still undecided as to which title will appear in the final draft). Sometimes, it's only a matter of minutes before I arrive at this phase, but it can take up to twenty-four hours, depending on how good or bad life is going at the time. This is when I start to "de-Hulk" (looks like I've decided). The red is slowly, but surely dissolving from my face by this time, and I would even say that I feel confident that I'm no longer a threat to civilized society (something I most definitely am, during phase 1 and 2 of the crisis). (Wow, I really love using brackets, eh?) I walk around a lot during this phase and maybe even abuse an inanimate object; anything to get my mind off of my anger.

Phase 4 is admitting I have a problem. By the time I've de-Hulked enough that I can see straight again, I go back and read the criticism.

Phase 5 is more often then not, remorse. After I've read the offensive statement a few more times, I usually see that I have over-reacted. This isn't always the case, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that at least 90% of the time I over-react.

Phase 6. Or as I like to call it, acceptance. I can start to see the merit in what has been said about my work (remember, we're just talking about work here, not personal criticism, that's a whole other topic and I usually never make it past Phase 2 in those instances).

Phase 7: Moving on. Like Phase 3, this can take minutes or hours, but once the initial shock is gone, the adrenalin has washed away, and I've had time to calm down and review the criticism, I forget what I was so mad at to begin with. When Phase 7 is complete, I'm over it and I've forgotten it happened in the first place.

There's an eight phase, but I rarely ever find myself there anymore. Phase 8 is where I feel bad for all of the angry, and venomous thoughts I had while mired in the insane fog of Phases 1 and 2.

So why do I get like this? I have no idea. That's all. I really just have no idea. Is it because I'm an insecure person? Likely, but I tell myself that it's just the fiery Italian blood running through my veins (my full name is Patrick Ryan O'Leary, so maybe I'm just lying to myself). Does my negative reaction to criticism make me a bad person? I guess it depends on who you talk to. I've done everything outside of shock and or, talk therapy to cure it. I went to Anger Management (not Nicholson's finest performance in my opinion, but a great Eminem tour), but that didn't help, I just left the theater with a further love of Adam Sandler. I even bought this book,Criticism Management: How to More Effectively Give, Receive, and Seek Criticism in Our Lives. It's about controlling your temper when criticized, and I'm planning on reading it some day.

Maybe I shouldn't have tied my financial wagon to a creative industry, where your art is always being judged, but I like writing and I'm not going to stop.

Could it be that all I want to hear is how great I am, and how incredible my work is? Yes, that is exactly what I want to hear.

Nobody likes to be criticized. Well, maybe some people do, but that's just one of the many things I'll never understand. Some people just seem to deal with it better than I do. I'm incapable of letting criticism roll off my back the way some people I know can. If you possess this remarkable super-power please, let me know what you know that I don't. If you're like me, chime in as well, so I don't go through life thinking I'm the only one like this, and there's yet another thing wrong with me (webbed toes).



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    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      ROLEARY: A great read here. And I am the same way. Now good, constructive criticism, yeah. But vain, ill-pointed criticisms, NOPE. Not for me. Do not even go there. Voted up and away. You are a terrific Hubber. Make us happy with MORE hubs like this.


    • ROLEARY profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      PDXKaraokeGuy. I liked your Hub. Maybe having an eyeball or a writing group take a look at my stuff would help. I ve got a romance novel coming out and am working with an editor for the first time when it comes to fiction. Ive had no trouble dealign with his edits because he puts them in a way that isn't rude, but professional, he's offering me suggestions and explanaitons on why something doesn't work and I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with, and was the basis for this, is the coward who sits on his computer halfway around the world and says to me, Work on your grammar idiot, and leaves a single letter as their name. That is the stuff that angers me, and again, what I m referencing in this Hub. I let myslef go when I write a Hub, they're usually just me ranting and raving.

      PWalker281. For me, it doesn't get more personal than my writing, which probably isn't a good thing for me, but I'm an emotional person, and unfortunalety I take alot of things to heart as a first reaction. Time usually makes me see more clearly, but I'm prone to that intital blow-up. Maybe not the best personality trait, but it's who I am. I've mellowed with age, hopefully the mellowing process continues.

      Thanks for the comments.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      The fact that you recognize your overreaction to criticism and can actually describe the phases you go through shows me you've done a lot to deal with it. I agree with what others have said - try to separate yourself from your writing. I think perhaps you may be too identified with it so that when your writing receives criticism, you feel as if YOU are being criticized.

      Even if you never stop reacting this way (not saying you won't), you at least have a way of managing your anger, much like a diabetic manages the disease with insulin.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 

      6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      roleary, this is the first article I've read by you and you seem to be a good writer, with a good sense of humor. You are certainly however, in the wrong business if you don't do well with criticism (and, perhaps rejection?). It's part of life for a writer. I'm fine with constructive criticism (though i don't like it) as long as I am able to separate the work from me, as long the the criticizer offers something helpful or constructive and is not anonymous. I will not accept anonymous criticism, no matter how valid. I like your approaches... I used to react much the same way. I've written some hubs on the subject, if you;'re interested. Here's one of them:


    • ROLEARY profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      True, true. I guess what I was thinking of when I wrote this is the rude ones, because they're the ones that register the most with me.

    • WookieWonderfuls profile image


      6 years ago from London, UK

      Certain comments get my blood pressure raised a bit but only if they are disrespectful, something like 'How about you learn some punctuation' would be one id react to. If its constructive and the person genuinely wants to help then i take it as advice :)

      Some people are just rude, others want to help. Just have to separate the two ;)

    • ROLEARY profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      YOu guys are absolutley right, it's not worth

      gettting that upset about.I shouldn't get so upset. I'm not a very emotional person in everyday life, but when it comes to my work, I'm incapable of rational thought at the initial moment of impact. I haven't killed anyone yet, I was just wondering

      if I was the only one who gets angry when they're criticised. I've started learning from the criticism, it just takes time for me to see it for what it is.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Don't personalize things. Constructive criticism can be your own best friend and will make you all the wiser!

    • WookieWonderfuls profile image


      6 years ago from London, UK

      I admire your honesty, especially as it leaves you wide open to critics :)

    • maxoxam41 profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      So many phases for only one comment, do you really think it is worthy?

      I can be angry but not with such a proportion! I use my brain and imagination to knock down his argumentation. It always works.


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