Constructive criticism and responding gracefully to criticism
by Mona Pereth
- Responding gracefully to (mostly constructive) criticism
- Responding gracefully to (mostly hostile or inappropriate) criticism
- Giving constructive criticism
- Both giving and receiving constructive criticism
- Constructive criticism and autistic people
- Rejection sensitivity, "rejection sensitivity dysphoria" (RSD), and other sensitivity to criticism
- Anger management
- Relevant message board threads
The art of giving and receiving constructive criticism is a set of skills, closely related to both assertiveness and active listening, that are absolutely essential in a workplace and among people collaborating on anything (e.g. those of us collaborating on building groups of autistic people).
As autistic people, we need other people to be assertive with us, to talk to us in a clear and specific way -- rather than expect us to pick up on subtle hints (which many of us are very bad at) and then abandon us when we can't. Therefore, we need other people to feel safe being assertive with us. We don't need to agree with their criticisms, but we do need to be able to respond to them in a graceful manner, so we can continue communicating with the other person until either we reach a mutually acceptable win-win compromise or we agree to disagree.
Alas, many autistic people are highly sensitive to criticism, evem more so than most people in general are. For many of us this may be due, at least in part, to childhood trauma. Many of us were bullied. Even among those of us with relatively non-traumatic childhoods, most of us grew up being criticized and corrected a lot more than most kids are. Many of us live in constant dread of doing something wrong. Many of us have developed a deep emotional need to be "right" at all times.
In a more autistic-friendly world, there would be fewer things that we get criticized for. We would no longer be expected to imitate NT body language. Our sensory sensitivities would be accommodated. People would communicate with us clearly, instead of expecting us to pick up on subtle hints. People would respect our own desire to communicate clearly.
But there would still be other people in that world, and there still would inevitably be some friction arising between us and at least some of those other people. So, even in the most autistic-friendly possible world, criticism would still be one of the realities of life that never go away. Criticism is, by far, the lesser evil compared to being ostracized or otherwise punished for our failure to pick up on some mysterious unspecified subtle hint.
Both the ability to respond gracefully to criticism and the ability to give constructive criticism in a polite way are essential to effective teamwork. Yet even many NT's do not have these skills, preferring instead to rely on subtle hints -- even though subtle hints are not, even for NT's, an effective way to communicate about work-related details.
The pages below may also give all of us more insight, generally, into how to assert our own needs without being rude, and how to respond more gracefully when others assert their needs.
Of course, knowing when to use these skills is important too. Often it is better just to mind one's own business than to offer even the most polite constructive criticism, and sometimes the person criticizing you really does have hostile motives.
Note: The tutorials listed below do not yet include much info on how to assert boundaries with people who make truly hostile criticisms or who truly have no business criticizinng you in the first place. These are important topics too, on which a list of tutorials will be added later, either on this page or a separate page.
Also, I don't fully agree with everything in the tutorials below. I would suggest that they be treated not as holy writ, but as jumping-off points for discussion in a peer support / self-help group.
Responding gracefully to (mostly constructive) criticism
6 Ways to Take the Sting Away When You Receive Criticism: Mistakes happen. Use these mantras to stay feeling OK whatever the criticism, by Susan Heitler Ph.D., Psychology Today, Jun 09, 2016.
8 Secrets to Handling Criticism Well: Criticism doesn't need to be so painful, by Barbara Greenberg Ph.D., Psychology Today, November 4, 2018.
How Can I Learn to Take Criticism Without Taking It Personally? by Alan Henry, lifehacker, 06/04/2012.
How to Take Constructive Criticism Like a Professional by Charley Mendoza, envato tuts+ Business, 12 Jan 2021.
5 Tips for Gracefully Accepting Constructive Criticism by Jacqueline Whitmore, Entrepreneur, September 8, 2015.
7 Tips That'll Help You Stop Taking Criticism So Personally (and Make it Easier to Move On) by Stacey Lastoe, The Muse.
Taking Constructive Criticism Like a Champ by Nicole Lindsay, The Muse.
A mind-closing dynamic, Real Social Skills, November 16, 2012 -- about what's wrong with being overly apologetic.
Responding gracefully to (mostly hostile or inappropriate) criticism
How to Respond to Criticism: Criticism often reveals more about the critic than the person being criticized, by Clifford N. Lazarus Ph.D., Psychology Today, February 21, 2018.
How to protect yourself from destructive criticism: Facing destructive criticism in the workplace? Ugh. Well, here are a few pointers to protect yourself, by Corey Moseley, jostle.
How to Handle Criticism Like a Pro by Laura Schwecherl, Greatist, Updated on February 26, 2020.
Responding to Destructive Criticism: It's important to emphasize problem solving rather than blaming, while attending to the larger structures of power and privilege, by Pamela Oliver, Inside Higher Ed, August 30, 2018.
How to Deal with Critical People, Personal Excellence.
10 Tips For Receiving Criticism with Grace: How to receive criticism with grace, by Lissa Rankin M.D., Psychology Today, May 07, 2014.
Giving constructive criticism
Understanding Constructive Criticism: Definition, Tips and Examples, Indeed, November 19, 2020.
The Art of Constructive Criticism: Are you a constructive critic or just critical?, by Clifford N Lazarus Ph.D., Psychology Today, Oct 29, 2011
How To Give Constructive Criticism: 6 Helpful Tips (or download free PDF ebook here) - Personal Excellence.
How to Tell Someone They Are Wrong by Maya Diamond, MA, WikiHow, Last Updated: July 31, 2020.
How to Politely Tell Someone That Something They Said Offended You - WikiHow, Last Updated: May 14, 2020.
Skip the Criticism Altogether. Give Feedback Instead: Learn to minimize sting to increase the odds that your concerns will be heard, by Susan Heitler Ph.D., Psychology Today, May 08, 2012. (Note: What this author calls "feedback" is, actually, pretty much the same thing as what other authors call "constructive criticism.")
Both giving and receiving constructive criticism
Dealing With Criticism by Gregg Walker, Dept. of Speech Communication, Oregon State University
How to Know the Difference Between Constructive and Non Constructive Criticism by Lily Zheng, MA, WikiHow, Last Updated: October 22, 2020.
What Your Confrontation Style and Criticism-Handling Tell Me About You by Rezzan Hussey, Art of Wellbeing, July 11, 2017.
There are three kinds of criticism by Ioan Tenner & Daniel Tenner, Wisdom, sleeping..
Top Examples of Constructive Criticism: How to Handle it Like a Pro by Kat Boogaard, Go Skills
Constructive criticism and autistic people
#Aspergers & Interaction: Being Right, part 1 (see also Part 2 and Part 3 and #Aspergers & Relationships: Talking With Other #Aspies), SnakeDancing blog on Tumblr. (Contains references to CoRT (Cognitive Reasearch Trust), about which see also The Aims of CoRT and The CoRT Tools .)
Let me tell you about my "inability to handle criticism" - one Asperger's / autistic perspective by Laina Eartharcher, the silent wave, January 30, 2017.
Compliments and Criticisms: Supporting an Adult with ASD by Nancy Popkin, Autism Resource Specialist, Autism Society of North Carolina, February 11th, 2020.
How To Tell an Autistic Person You Were Offended by Something We Said Or Did (and Have Us Actually Understqand You)! by Jaime A. Heidel, The ARticulate Autistic, April 11, 2020.
Rejection sensitivity, "rejection sensitivity dysphoria" (RSD), and other sensitivity to criticism
How to Deal with Rejection Sensitivity (video) by How to ADHD (YouTube), Aug 25, 2020, with accompanying 4 R's Reference Card (Google doc), which appears to be very similar to the 5 R's of Shankar Self-Reg and also the 4 R's of Affiance Financial's Behavioral Financial Advice. (I smell a copyright dispute brewing ....) Be that as it may, the 4 R's Reference Card looks potentially useful.
What Is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria?: "Now gaining more attention, RSD can pack an emotional wallop," by Andrea Bonior Ph.D., Psychology Today, Jul 25, 2019.
Everything You Need to Know About Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria by Jessica DuBois-Maahs, Oct 02, 2020.
More Than 'Thin-Skinned': Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, by Crystal Raypole, November 30, 2019.
What Is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria? by Valencia Higuera on October 29, 2019.
Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria by Solveig S., AutChat, April 17th, 2021. See also the #AutChat Twitter chat transcript for April 18, 2021.
Sensitivity to Criticism, Good Therapy, 08-14-2019.
How To Calm Down When You're Really Really Angry (+ 7 Things NOT To Do) by Katie Uniacke, A Conscious Rethink, Last updated on 22nd April 2021.
How to Calm Down When You are Angry, co-authored by Chloe Carmichael, PhD, WikiHow, Last Updated: April 26, 2021.
How to Calm Down when You're Upset, co-authored by Trudi Griffin, LPC, MS, WikiHow, Last Updated: March 25, 2021.
Anger management: 10 tips to tame your temper: Keeping your temper in check can be challenging. Use simple anger management tips - from taking a timeout to using "I" statements - to stay in control, Mayo Clinic.
12 Ways To Calm Down When You're Pissed Off And Don't Want To Be: For when you know you're way too angry, but can't seem to turn it off, by Stephanie Hallett, BuzzFeed, Jan 14, 2019.
How to Calm Down: 24 Things to Do When You're Angry, The Healthy, Updated: Jan. 28, 2021
Need A Simple Way To Keep Calm? by Dr. Sarah Allen
How To Calm Down When It All Seems Too Much by Nicola Kirkpatrick, BetterHelp, updated June 03, 2020
Relevant message board threads
Has anyone given you constructive criticism? - Wrong Planet, new thread, as of April 24, 2022
Has constructive feedback actually helped you?? - Wrong Planet, new thread, as of July 3, 2021.
Responding gracefully to constructive criticism - Wrong Planet, new thread, as of May 5, 2021.
Accepting Criticism - AutismForums, old thread from 2013.
Trouble Handling Constructive Criticism - Wrong Planet, old thread from 2010.
I can't take criticism of any kind. - Wrong Planet, old thread from 2009.
Taking criticism and giving out criticism - Wrong Planet, old thread from 2005.
Various autistic peer-led groups including support groups, career-oriented groups, and hobby-oriented social groups, led or facilitated by members of the Autistic Peer Leadership Group. Our newest group is the Autistic Women's Support & Social Group. All groups currently meet via text-based chat. Some groups will hopefully meet in-person after the COVID crisis is finally over with.
Where to get an ASD evaluation as an adult: This page will be expanded and updated sometime after the COVID crisis is over with.