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Toxic criticism is the opposite of constructive feedback. It is the act of criticizing, usually unfavorably. Whereas constructive feedback is the transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event or process. Those who criticize do it because they lack empathy at best or want to emotionally or psychologically harm someone. Mean tweets are examples of toxic criticism on steroids.

Back in the day we used to say “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” People are in therapy because of harmful words. So why do people want to hurt others in this manner? According to Brene’ Brown, people who are most critical have the same issues as those they criticize. They feel better about themselves when putting others down. Some critics haven’t taken risks but criticize others who do. It’s a way of keeping others in their place.

I was going to start this week’s blog asking if you’d ever been criticized in the workplace. The answer is obvious, you are a leader with or without a title. The more appropriate question is, how did you handle it? The first thing to determine is if it’s constructive feedback or toxic criticism. It’s easier to hear feedback from someone you know, like and trust, but it doesn’t always come from someone you know well. The second thing to do is take a minute before reacting. The natural reaction is to become defensive. Pause and reflect on the words, tone and body language of the person providing the information. Ask yourself, “does this person have your best interest at heart”? If you are not sure, ask clarifying questions. Stay calm and make eye-contact without staring.

Some say you shouldn’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from. I say that a broken clock is right twice a day. In other words, accept what truly serves you and discard the rest. Remember, it’s not what you want to hear, but what you need to hear that helps you get better. Change your thoughts, change your destiny!