Executive Coaching Tips for Dealing With Negative Criticism

Some executive coaching clients have a difficult time dealing with negative criticism. This is an important skill to learn because it’s not only part of human nature, but as an executive, the more exposure and visibility you get, the more criticism will flow your way.  As difficult as it can be to handle negative criticism, you can turn it into a benefit if you understand how to manage it effectively and in a more positive way.

Here are 5 executive coaching tips to help you handle negative criticism more effectively:

1) Consider the source of the criticism

Many people feel qualified or entitled to criticize and judge others regardless of how experience, expertise or knowledge they have about the situation or people involved.

The next time negative criticism comes your way, start by considering the source of the criticism. Ask yourself: Is the person credible? Do they know enough about the situation to give you feedback? Is the source qualified to provide you with advice and feedback? Is this a person who’s opinion you trust and respect?

2) Consider the situation

Negative criticism can show up in many different ways.  It can happen at work, at home or while socializing. The situation matters because it can affect the nature and content of the criticism and may determine how you should best respond to it.

Think also about whether the criticism is coming during a particular stressful or emotionally charged situation. Criticism that happens during “the heat of the moment” is often stronger and more likely to be exaggerated or incorrect.

3) Consider the intent

In some cases, negative criticism may actually be intended as positive feedback. For example, by attempting to help you correct a problem or possible weakness.  But other times, negative criticism is clearly used with a negative intent to cause hurt, damage or humiliation.

So when dealing with negative criticism, try to take the likely intent of the person giving the criticism into account before you respond.  Is this person actually trying to help you?  Or are they intentionally trying to hurt or humiliate you?

You may not be able to figure out the other person’s intent right away, so take your time to think about it and figure out the real reason behind the criticism.

4) Be aware of your own emotions

Your own feelings about feedback or negative criticism can cloud your thinking and your judgment about the accuracy of the feedback you are receiving.

5) Consider the truth and accuracy

Most negative criticism often contains at least a partial grain of truth.  You can turn around a negative criticism and still gain something positive from it by looking for and extracting that golden nugget of truth in the feedback you received.

It’s valuable to do this with an open and calm mind so you don’t lash out or lose any positive benefits from the negative feedback you received.



  1. It’s so true that criticism is a norm in life at a personal and professional level. It’s less important that you focus on the criticism and more important on how you manage it. Taking the steps outlined in this post walk you through the process of managing the criticism that comes your way, and from every direction, when you are a company executive. Using the steps as your guide allows you to professionally process the criticism and react to it appropriately.

  2. These are 5 great tips on dealing with negative criticism. I especially like the tip on “Be aware of your own emotions”. Once the “emotional drama” is removed from almost any situation, we are all able to evaluate the situation more succesfully. The only other tip I would add is to not dwell too much on any criticism-take it for what it is and move on.

  3. These are grate tios indeed. However, the same tips could be equally useful and applicable to other level of employers as well and not just limited to executive level.

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