Dealing with Criticism and Conflict


Dealing with criticism and conflict goes hand and hand with leadership. In order to be an effective leader, you must know how to deal with the inevitable criticism that comes with leadership and be able to handle conflict.

We are often not equipped with how to deal with conflict correctly. And we often do not understand or even foresee that criticism is going to happen and that we need to know how to navigate through it as we are trying to accomplish our goals and live a life in leadership.

As a public leader, I am very familiar with criticism. I have had to learn throughout the years how to deal with criticism well. Many times in dealing with criticism means learning how to look at the larger picture in order not to react poorly.

When I first became a manager at a previous job, there was a situation that happened with someone that caused me to have a reactionary response. I got caught up in knowing that I was factually correct and wanted to prove myself to this person. I reacted in a way that brought me momentary personal satisfaction, but ultimately, it dimensioned the person that I would hope to be perceived as as a leader.

My father caught wind of how I responded and drove down to my job to give me advice I will never forget. Looking at the bigger picture, my dad told me that criticism is something that I will have to face every single day with my life. He looked at me and said to me, “You don’t think that I have had to deal with things that were unfair. You don’t think I have dealt with things that were unjust. You don’t know how many times people have said things to me or done things to me that have rocked me to more core.” And he reminded me that it is not how you react, it is how you respond. He let me know that I ultimately played into exactly what the individual wanted me to do, and subsequently diminished who I was as a leader.

He gave me an index card with a quote from Aristotle that I still have on my desk today that says, “To avoid criticism, say nothing do nothing, be nothing.”

If you are going to go after anything in life, if you are going to live as a leader and put yourself out there, you will have to face criticism. And how you deal with criticism will determine how you will succeed.

In order to deal with criticism correctly, you must first be able to identify whether or not the criticism is positive or negative. You must be able to know if you should be listening to the criticism in order to grow and become a better person and leader or if the motive of the criticism is to knock you down. By identifying the source and motive of the criticism you are able to effectively respond to it.

Positive criticism is with the intent to help you grow. The source of it wants you to be better. It wants you to succeed like a coach on a football field. Pushing you to play better, pushing you to work harder. A coach wants you to win the game. It is vital that you are receptive to positive criticism. If you are not, you will not grow. You need to be open to positive criticism in order to better yourself. Evolving should always be your goal or else you will stop progressing. You will stop succeeding without absorbing positive criticism and changing yourself for the better.

It is those who listened to their coaches, listened to their mentors, to those who have gone before them, and learned from their positive criticism to become better - it is those people who let advice sink into them and change them that go on to succeed in the greatest of ways. Learn how to listen to those who are helping you achieve your goal and let their words change you from the inside out.

Negative criticism is the most difficult to deal with. But if you want to achieve, you have to know that you will deal with this criticism. Think of criticism like a storm raging in front of you. Negative criticism will stand in your face and tempt you to run away. But you have to stare it back and remember your ultimate goal and remember what you are fighting towards then run straight through the storm.

Know that you cannot control negative criticism. You cannot be responsible for what people say about you. If people have something to say about you, it means you are doing something! You are doing something that people want to stop. Take that as fuel and push forward.

The only thing you can control is the way that you respond. First, know that you are doing something that has caused people to take notice and remind yourself that you have control over your own journey. Second, learn to regulate your emotions. Regulating your emotions is a sign of wisdom. Just like a general sitting up on a hill on a horse looking over the entire battlefield, you have to be able to remove yourself from how criticism makes you feel and control your emotion. Yes, negative criticism hurts, but you have to look at the larger picture in order to push past it.

Do not dare allow criticism to knock you off your game. Do not dare allow the storm to consume you. You are better than succumbing to the throws of criticism. Your life means more than that. You have been through too much to get to where you are now to let other people’s words and opinions take you out of the game.

In spite of all the things you have been up against, whether that is where you were from, the color of your skin, your gender, who your parents are, look at all the things you have overcome to get to where you are.

You should be proud of that. You should own that. And you should know that you are not finished yet. So, do not let someone stop you and put you in a place of complacency. Not knowing how to deal with criticism and conflict will ultimately put you in a dangerous place of complacency.

Your life is in your hands. You are the master of your own fate. You are the captain of your soul. You have to know that the storms that you are going to face in the future are there to make you stronger. The way you deal with those storms and those tough battles is how people are going to remember you.

No one tells stories about those who had it easy and did not face anything. We honor those who fought the toughest battles and came out on the other end. Let that be your story.

And always remember, if people are criticizing you in a negative way and trying to knock you off of your game, then you must be doing something right that is causing the world to pay attention to you. And for that, you should be proud.


We love you and are proud of you. Keep fighting forward!



- David L. Joyner and the Joyner Media & Strategies Team