Criticism can be hard to take. Whether the criticism is fair or unfair it’s going to hurt, particularly when you’re putting yourself out there or trying to accomplish a goal.

The Internet and social media not only makes us more exposed and vulnerable than ever before, but it also gives critics regardless of their motivations a forum to cause pain, even in complete anonymity if they wish.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your view, most of us aren’t likely to face criticism over social media unless we’re doing something public people don’t like. Most of our criticism is likely to come from the work situation, friends or family.

Dale Carnegie tells the story about a Colgate salesman by the name of E.H. Little, who couldn’t sell soap very well even though he knew the product was good and the price was right and as a result, he was at risk of losing his job.

“He figured out the trouble must be with himself,” writes Carnegie. “When he failed to make a sale, he would often walk around the block trying to figure out what was wrong.

“Sometimes he would go back to the merchant and say, ‘I haven’t come back here to try to sell you any soap. I have come back to get your advice and your criticism. Won’t you please tell me what I did that was wrong when I tried to sell you soap a few minutes ago?’

“This attitude won him a lot of friends and priceless advice.”

Have you ever noticed that uninvited criticism causes more pain than criticism that you invite? When you invite criticism, you put yourself in a learning frame of mind which is better able to carry the weight of criticism.

When criticism is uninvited, it catches us like a sucker punch. We’re not ready for it, so it hurts. Inviting criticism as a way to improve your performance, and taking that criticism on board, will help you better cope with the sting and even help to advance your career.

E.H White went on to become CEO and then Chairman of the Colgate Palmolive Company before dying at the age of 100 years in 1981.

Here are some tips to help you cope with uninvited criticism:

1. Listen: Stand back from yourself. Be outside looking in, and listen objectively to the criticism.

2. Evaluate: Is this criticism constructive or just hurtful? The answer will give you control over your emotional response.

3. Analyse: Examine where the criticism originates. Is it a jealous colleague? Did you inadvertently hurt the person’s feelings at some stage and they’re lashing out? Do they feel threatened for some reason? Are they trying to cover up their failings? Is there something else going on in their lives that has led to this behaviour?

4. Stay calm: Some martial arts, like Aikido, teach that without balance and control, you cannot properly defend yourself.

5. Don’t quit: Do not allow yourself to be put off your goal. You only lose when you quit.

As Carnegie says, unjust criticism is often a disguised compliment. If you’ve aroused jealousy and envy, it may be because you’re doing something right.

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