Criticism and knee-jerk reactions are all over social media and in the street. There’s so much negativity around these days, it’s more important than ever to learn not to react in kind. An adverse reaction feeds the bad feelings and makes everyone feel negative and defensive. The better way is to learn to take criticism gracefully and see it as an opportunity for growth.

1 – Don’t React Straightaway

Your first reaction to criticism, whether it’s an email or an in-person critique, is to become defensive, even angry. That’s human nature. However, take a deep breath and give yourself some time to cool down and let those first emotions ebb. That email doesn’t need an immediate response, and that phone message can wait. If you’re criticized in a meeting or in person, buy yourself some time by telling them you’ll get back to them about the issue.

2 – Find the Positive

Get into the habit of looking for the positive in what might appear to be wholly negative. Even if that email is rude or your paper comes back covered in red tracked changes, take a breath and try to see it through a positive filter. What important information are you being given? Clearly, your communication didn’t work, and there are clues in the feedback. Find the grain of truth and use it to improve.

3 – Thank Your Critic

The first few times you may have to do this through gritted teeth but get into the habit of making your first reaction to criticism a thank you. First up, the other person won’t be expecting that reaction. Secondly, it sets the tone for a civilized discussion instead of a fistfight.

It also buys you some time to process the information in the critique and work out how to respond. And it makes you the good guy.

4 – Find the Lesson

It’s essential to learn from criticism. It usually is not a personal attack but comes from a genuine response to your work or your behavior. Once you have trained yourself not to react from an emotional place, you can see what the criticism has to offer. Maybe it’s right. Perhaps you don’t have to defend yourself but learn from what is being said. What can you take from it and learn to do better?

5 – Be the Better Person

Learning to take criticism gracefully will stand you in good stead. People will admire you for not stooping to arguing or engaging with negativity. As a bonus, you’ll feel better about yourself too!