CRITICISM -Can Be Ugly, Bad or Good

  • Criticism/feedback is part of youth group dynamics.

  • Negative comments and feedback can have long-term effects on a person’s life.

  • In this post we discuss some approaches that can assist our youth to handle criticism.


Greta Thunberg is Time Magazine’s Person of the Year at the age of 16.

Negative comments and criticism can have powerful impacts on our youth.

Comments even in jest can have a negative impact on a child.

This can have a long term affect on their self-esteem and self-confidence.

Handling criticism is an important life skill.

In this post we discuss how we receive and give feedback and some approaches that can assist our youth when facing criticism.



  • Destructive criticism lists faults with no suggestions for improvement.

  • Negative criticism can make us self conscious and discouraged.

  • Harsh and especially cruel criticism is very hurtful.

  • Criticism can be detrimental to our self-esteem and self-confidence.

With this in mind it is important to discuss and help our younger generation handle criticism.



Why do People Criticize Each Other?

Some reasons are:

  • JEALOUSY: -They are jealous.

  • INSECURITY: -They feel insecure and criticize others to help themselves feel better.

  • FAILURES: -They may be attempting to cover up their own failures.

  • THREATENED: -They may feel threatened and want to take the focus away from themselves.

  • HABITUAL: -They may have grown up in a family or group culture of habitual criticism.

  • CARING: -They may care about others and want them to do better.

Some Common Responses to Criticism.

We may:

  • Become defensive;

  • Retaliate with anger or blame;

  • Internalize anger and fret or fume over it;

  • Ignore it and hurt inside;

  • Act silly;

  • Become confused;

  • Withdraw or;

  • Run away.

Criticism is a fact of life and if you allow it to, it can hurt you.

A poor response to criticism can lead to depression, anxiety and low self esteem.



Discussion Topics:

  • Why is being able to handle criticism important?

  • How does listening to people’s opinions improve our relationships, performance, and satisfaction?

  • How can we practice making feedback frequent, fair, and focused in group sessions?

  • How does constructive criticism, where we offer thoughtful feedback help us?

  • What is the impact of negative destructive criticism which offers no positive help for improvement?

  • How can we learn from our mistakes, and move on?

  • Should we put ourselves first and not allow negative criticism to affect us? If so, how?

  • If subjected to unfair criticism how do we prevent damage to our self-esteem?

  • If we do not deserve the criticism received, what techniques can we use to cope and not dwell on the criticism?

Approaches to Help Cope:

  • What can we do to keep ourselves level-headed and ready to process feedback properly?

  • Why is spending less time online and taking breaks from social media are helpful?

  • If getting stressed out, what is a relaxing breathing technique that works?

  • What are the benefits of spending time in nature?

  • How does total and empathetic listening help us?

  • How does feedback help personal and group growth?

  • What are the best ways to give positive feedback?

  • How can we reduce the fear and anxiety of criticism/feedback?

  • How does feedback encourage improvement?

  • How do different cultures doing things differently impact criticism?

  • How does criticism impact a person when it is based on guesswork or opinion rather than fact?


Steps to Take when Delivering Constructive Criticism:

  • Note we have a right to request a change in someone’s behaviour if it hurts, upsets or irritates us.

  • Give direct feedback in a loving and helpful manner.

  • Try and follow the guidelines below when giving constructive criticism.

    • Choose an appropriate time and place.

    • Describe what we are criticizing rather than labeling the person.

    • Describe your feelings using “I” statements without blaming the other person.

    • Ask for a specific change and give alternative suggestions.

    • Outline the positive consequences if the person does meet the request for change.

    • Discuss the negative consequences if there is no change.

    • Be realistic in the changes you are suggesting and the consequences if there is no change.

    • Do not make empty threats.

    • End on a positive note.

Steps to Use When Receiving Criticism:

  • Don’t react until we are sure of the details.

  • Keep calm and take a few deep breaths to control stress.

  • Listen carefully and ask for explanations.

  • Clarify the real issue. Is what is said fact or opinion? Is it accurate?

  • View criticism as beneficial.

  • Question the truth of any criticism. Is it justified?

  • Don’t get defensive.

  • Don’t take it personally.

  • Resist criticizing the other person when you are criticized.

  • Listen to the other person without thinking about your reply.

  • Become conscious of why the person is criticizing you.

  • Remember that the criticism represents one person’s point of view.

  • Practice detachment when necessary.

  • Nod until the other person has completely finished.

  • Allow them to say everything intended.

  • Ask questions which helps such as “What did you mean by that?”

  • Take notes.

  • Take time before responding which defuses the situation and tells the other person that you consider their feedback important.

  • Remember the benefits feedback provides.

  • Respond to the words not the tone of the criticism.

  • Say thank you.

  • Smile.

Rational discourse is the best antidote to unfair criticism.

Ultimately there is no secret sauce to happiness and success in life, but in experiencing it, we can accept the precarious nature of criticism.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please contact us.

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There is a guide available which assists parents and others working with youth.

The guide enables a person to be proactive in the success of a child’s future.

It contains activities to assist youth to gain critical soft skills.

They will become more resourceful and independent when they practice and gain these skills.

The guide is available from Our Future Leaders.

Request the Parent’s Guide here


What are you going to do to assist children to become our future leaders?

Fred Jones

Victoria, BC Canada

Fred Jones

Fred Jones

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