Real Talk: Handling Criticism

I’ve been wanting to talk about the issue of handling criticism for a while now. I get asked about it a lot by the law students I mentor and via instagram message by other young professionals who follow along with LegalLee Blonde.

Criticism is inevitable in any profession – you cannot please everyone – and part of the key to personal and professional growth is dealing with it in a healthy way. Today I wanted to share with you my thoughts on how to handle criticism.

Wondering why a “real talk” category post on handling criticism has photos me in a tutu? It’s actually for a very good reason…

These photos are from a blog post I did way back when I started blogging in 2015. I was really new to blogging when I shared these and so was getting maybe 50 page views a day here on LegalLee Blonde. Then one day my page views started escalating. I got 100 views, then 200, then 1000. I was really confused and checked analytics to see where these views were coming from. They were coming from a lil old website you may have heard of … GOMI. GOMI, or the longer “get-off-my-internets”, is a notoriously hateful internet blog where people go to criticize and hate on bloggers or other public people.

A now deleted GOMI thread shared one of these tutu photos with a link to the post talking about what a bratty airhead I must be. In the pages and pages of comment responses people said things like;

– she should quit her legal career because no one will ever hire her;

– she’s fat and poses like an absolute idiot;

– what a f**king moron; another blonde idiot thinking she’s a “blogger”

– who would ever wear that?! She has no sense of fashion

It hurt guys. (A lot). I cried ( … A lot). Let’s call this “career criticism 1”.

Flash forward to this year. I recently had a meeting with a very well respected, incredibly brilliant lawyer who is a mentor of mine. She had some real hard truths to share with me. She talked about the fact that I have now built up a good reputation as a smart, hard-working lawyer. I’ve had some substantial wins in my criminal cases and no longer need to worry about not being taken seriously. However, she shared with me some criticisms that other lawyers had shared with her about me; that I am not friendly/personable enough in Court and that I can come off as being too busy or dismissing opportunities. This was really hard to hear, but absolutely worth it. Let’s call this “career criticism 2”.

How I felt initially after both these critiques was the same; crappy. And le’s be honest, that’s the standard reaction to criticism. But, how I internalized them and decided to deal with them was entirely different. Criticism can be valid and helpful and make you better if it comes from the right people and you are open to the change. My more recent career criticism I took to the very end of this 7 step process below. The first though, the mean internet trolls? Yeah, that stops at step 1!  Here’s my thought process on what to do when you’ve first had a piece of criticism:

 

Steps to Handling Criticism

  1. Value?
    First ask yourself; “do I value this person’s opinion?” If the answer is no; forget about it. I repeat, forget about it. Know who you are, know that you are wonderful, and if the critique is from someone you don’t respect or don’t value, there is zero point in wasting one iota of energy on it. (Ie. what I have done with my career criticism 1).
  2. Listen
    If you do value the person’s opinion, take a deep breath and actually listen to what they are saying. (Ie. what I am doing with my career criticism 2).
  3. Pause
    Don’t make any rash comments or rash decisions. Don’t be that person that yells at the criticism-giver. Think about it before you do anything one way or the other.
  4. Assess The Type of Criticism
    After hearing (or reading) what the criticism is, spend some time thinking about whether this person is the right person to give criticism in that area. Just because you’ve passed step 1, and value this person’s opinion, they may not be appropriately placed to give criticism in this area. For example, you’re a young lawyer and the associate you directly report to gives you criticism about the last legal brief you wrote. This may be criticism you accept and move on top step 5. Or, you could be a young lawyer and your dentist aunt gives you a critique about how you are navigating your legal career. You may decide that while you do value this person’s opinion, they are not the right person to give criticism in this area. If that’s the case, like with step one, let it go.
  5. Discuss
    If you decide the criticism comes from someone you value, in a position to give criticism in that area, discuss it with them. You’re brain panics when you’re being critiqued, so you may be unintentionally spinning or summarizing the exact criticism. Make sure you clarify what their criticism is so that you fully understand it.
  6. Reflect
    Then, you reflect. Think about whether this is something you want to fix or change and if it is how you can do that. Talk to others you value if you feel comfortable doing so. Get their insight on the critique.
  7. Grace
    Give yourself some grace. If you’ve reached the point where you’ve decided the criticism is from someone you respect, in an area they should be critiquing in and that this is valid thing you want to change, be kind to yourself. Don’t berate yourself for having made the mistake or acted a certain way. Noone is perfect; and you are a huge step ahead of most people because you are open to critique and willing to improve. Be proud of yourself for that – that is a huge amount of personal and career growth.

7 steps to how I handle criticism. I hope this helps you in navigating the difficult world of criticism in your career, whatever it may be. It’s a tough process but it’s so worth to helping you grow.

Thanks for reading today’s Real Talk post. If you want more real talk; check out the “Real Talk” tab in my blog header. And back to fashion for a moment – I still love this outfit – bring on the tulle and polka dots any day!

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36 Comments

  1. Hillary Conheady January 28, 2019 / 7:26 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this!! I definitely have a tough time dealing with criticism, so you’re not alone!! P.S. I love this outfit!! Instantly reminded me of Carrie Bradshaw!

    xo, Hillary | hillheady.com

    • Lee January 28, 2019 / 7:31 am

      Thank you so much for reading it!! And re. the outfit – thank you!! That Carrie bradshaw tutu look is so iconic!

    • Lee January 28, 2019 / 8:25 pm

      Thank you for reading! <3

  2. Greta Hollar (@greta_hollar) January 28, 2019 / 8:04 am

    GOMI threads are the absolute worst and have killed several friends confidence and hurt their feelings! It’s good that you’ve learned how to handle it and not to let it get you down. You’re so fab girl!

    • Lee January 28, 2019 / 8:26 pm

      Aw thank you so much Greta! And ugh, I’m sorry to hear it affected your friends’ confidence. It’s ridiculously that people choose to hide behind a keyboard and hurt other people.

  3. Cathy January 28, 2019 / 9:07 am

    Criticism is so hard to hear, especially since we can be our own worst critics-to hear it from others makes it ten times worse. I am so sorry to hear about the GOMI thread. Those people all lead pathetic lives, be glad you aren’t them, and don’t take to heart a word they say. As far as career criticism-I’ve had it too, and it’s hard, but can help you grow. You’re incredibly intelligent and hard working. Keep on rocking the courtroom and the Internet-you got this!

    XOXO
    Cathy

    • Lee January 28, 2019 / 8:27 pm

      I’ve never thought about it from the perspective of being your own worse critic and then hearing it from others; that is so so true. You are so kind Cathy, thank you so much for such supportive words <3

  4. thestyleintermission January 28, 2019 / 9:13 am

    i don’t understand why people are so hateful. This outfit is so fabulous! My inner reaction when people give me criticism is “Is this criticism going to make me a better/professional person?” If not, then BYYYEEE.

    The Style Intermission

    • Lee January 28, 2019 / 8:28 pm

      Yass love that inner reaction girl!!

  5. Josh January 28, 2019 / 9:37 am

    This is brilliant! We live in an age of trolling and it’s so easy to start dismissing all criticism. These steps sure make it a bit easier to accept what may be a good learning curve!

    • Lee January 28, 2019 / 8:30 pm

      Thank you; that’s exactly what I strive for – figuring out what is just hateful and should be dismissed versus what is genuine, important constructive criticism that can help you grow.

  6. Stephanie January 28, 2019 / 3:21 pm

    This was a really great post to read through. Handling criticism can be super challenging, but it seems like you’re tackling it with poise that’s super admirable. Hoping I can reach that standard myself one day.

    • Lee January 28, 2019 / 8:36 pm

      Aw thank you so much Stephanie; and you absolutely can! Being conscious of your choices when hearing criticism is 90% of the battle!

  7. Shauna January 28, 2019 / 6:20 pm

    Love these tips. And I’m terrified to even search myself on that website. It’s so ugly and horrible. Good for you that you kept blogging!

    Shauna

    http://www.lipglossandlace.net

    • Lee January 28, 2019 / 8:37 pm

      Ya girl, definitely just avoid it! No need to know if anyone is saying anything when you know it’s not worth it anyway! And thank you <3

  8. Elise January 28, 2019 / 7:53 pm

    This is such a terrific post!! The same thing happened to me a few years back. I decided I had two choices, I could be consumed by it and let a few opinions of me stop what I loved doing, or I would just ignore it and never look back. I remembered someone telling me that other’s opinion of you are their business and not yours and it says more about them than you. These are fabulous tips and again, such a fabulous post!

    xx, Elise
    http://www.sparkleandslippers.blogspot.com

    • Lee January 28, 2019 / 8:40 pm

      I am so sorry this happened to you as well; and so glad you handled it so well and kept going. I love the idea that their opinions are their business and not yours- it’s a great perspective to keep in mind.

  9. anabelle January 28, 2019 / 10:20 pm

    You look so gorgeous in these photos! It’s crazy how horrible people can be when they are hiding behind a computer screen. Im so glad you have learned so many great ways to handle criticism – these tips will definitely help me!

    • Lee January 29, 2019 / 10:35 pm

      Thank you so much Anabelle! and I’m so glad you think these tips will help you <3 It means so much to be able to share ideas through the internet and hear that people are actually listening to them and I'm not just talking to myself haha.

  10. Kelsey January 29, 2019 / 6:17 am

    Criticism is the worst! I’m so sorry you had to go through that. GOMI is literally full of a bunch of sad jealous people!

    • Lee January 29, 2019 / 10:35 pm

      Thank you so much Kelsey.

    • Lee January 29, 2019 / 10:37 pm

      Aw thank you so much Ruthie, that means so much to hear that.

  11. Isabelle January 29, 2019 / 12:34 pm

    Wow! I’ll never be able to understand why some people feel the need to bring others down (speaking of GOMI). I absolutely loved that you were able to turn this into a 7 seven steps thought process to handle criticism. I’ll definitely try to apply those in my life.

    p.s. For what it’s worth: I absolutely love the look!

    • Lee January 29, 2019 / 10:38 pm

      Thank you so much Isabelle, I hope you find the process helpful! And re. the oufit – thank you! I think everyone should get to dress up in an over the top princess-y outfit from time to time 🙂

  12. Di January 29, 2019 / 4:52 pm

    Love your advice when it comes to evaluating criticism.

    But…You don’t come off as friendly enough? I get the whole idea that “you catch more flies with honey”, and I understand it can be helpful to have a certain level of “likability.” But it just irks me that your female mentor told you this. Are men being told this I wonder? It just feels like another example of women having to be “more” in order to succeed.

    In full disclosure, your story probably bothers me because when I first started climbing the ladder in my advertising career several years ago, I was told by my female supervisor that other women in my office did not find me approachable and felt intimidated by me. It was suggested that I try “wearing more floral outfits to make it easier for them.” I found another job, one where my achievements were celebrated and

    Hopefully your mentor had better intent and better suggestions for improving than mine did.

    Anyway, I really do respect your message in this post.

    Also, try not to let GOMI get to you. That site says far more about the people who post than it does about the person they are posting about.

    • Lee January 29, 2019 / 10:42 pm

      Thank you so much 🙂
      And you’re right; that is such an important question to be asking about whether men would be asked the same. I’m very lucky because this particular female mentor is about as enlightened and empowered as they come, but she is also very in tune to the environment we work in .I think it’s got to be a balancing act of recognizing that yes maybe it is an unfair standard but while we work to change that I think we’ve got to work in the system we’re in and if that means I have to be better at finding that friendly balance then that’s what I’ve got to do.

      That is terrible your situation with your supervisor – it definitely sounds like she was out of line and didn’t have the best of intentions – I cant believe she would go so far as to tell you what to wear to be more approachable, that’s so nuts. I’m glad you’ve found a job where you don’t have to deal with that.

  13. Ada January 29, 2019 / 7:40 pm

    GOMI sucks the life out of good people and women who love blogging and fashion. And don’t worry – almost all of us have been there. I still love tulle skirts even as I am approaching 40 – gomi forums be damned! Plus your pumps and polka dot cardigan are so cute. And smart words and constructive criticism from your lawyer friend. 😉

    This outfit would be perfect to link up with my new Monthly “Skirting the Rules” linkup the last Tuesday of each month (link below). Thanks and have a great week! Ada. =)

    http://eleganceandmommyhood.blogspot.com/2019/01/a-bright-pink-floral-cardigan-and-red.htmla

    • Lee January 29, 2019 / 10:42 pm

      It totally does right!! And thank you so much for your kind comments <3

  14. Deanie Michelle January 29, 2019 / 9:44 pm

    Criticism can be so hard to hear, epically if it’s in the form of your first instance. Thanks so much for opening up about your experience. I love that you re-shared these photos today ❤️

    • Lee January 29, 2019 / 10:43 pm

      Thank you so much for reading <3

  15. Laura January 30, 2019 / 7:29 am

    It is really sad that some people feel the need to say hateful things about others. I always try and remember that it’s more of a reflection on them than it is of me. But I’m loving your thought process on how to handle criticism because everyone will face criticism at some point in their life/careers. I know I definitely have and it hurts but in the end I used it as fuel to make me better.

    xo, Laura

    • Lee January 30, 2019 / 7:16 pm

      I totally agree; it’s such a foreign concept to me- finding pleasure in tearing someone down. And thank you so much for your kind words! <3

  16. Lindsay February 4, 2019 / 2:26 pm

    That site is awful!!! Handling criticism is hard for all of us, and you do it gracefully girl! You keep doing you

    • Lee February 5, 2019 / 7:50 am

      Thank you so so much Lindsay, I appreciate the kind words and encouragement!

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