If Everyone’s a Critic, Why are We so Bad at Accepting Criticism?

By Jennifer Kuenzer, TrizCom PR

"This is terrific, now here's everything you messed up..."

"This is terrific, now here's everything you messed up..."

No matter what industry you work in, you will be faced with criticism at some point. You've probably given some, yourself. Specifically, “constructive criticism,” but what is that exactly? And does it look and feel the same to everyone? Well, to answer question 1, constructive criticism should be helpful – specific suggestions that seek to inform and improve your overall performance. And in answer to question 2, absolutely not. Sometimes tone, word choice or overall manner can seem confrontational, rude or just plain mean, even when the person criticizing you doesn’t intend for that to be the case. Now, you can’t control how people deliver criticism, but you can control how you receive it. Here are some tips to not only help you make the most out of the criticism you receive, but also how to accept that criticism graciously.

1.    Is it negative? Or does it just sound negative?
Criticism coming from colleagues, clients, bosses or, in the case of the PR industry, media contacts, is intended to push you to learn and improve your process and performance, not make you feel terrible. It can be a valuable asset if you don’t get too caught up in the emotion connected to the criticism itself. The best way to do that is to remove the tone. Sometimes things just sound harsh. Repeat the criticism to yourself, take out any emotion connected to the criticism (real or imagined), dig deeper for the “why” of the criticism, find its value and accept it for what it is: a form of help.

2.    Treat it as seriously as you treat praise.
It feels amazing to be told how great we are at our jobs. If compliments were physical things, they’d be banners, tiaras, sashes, medals – things we can show off with pride or wear with honor. Criticism doesn’t feel good. You wouldn’t really want to wear it. It’s not comfortable. But it is exactly what you need to grow as a professional. If you take every criticism as seriously as you do praise, that means you value improvement. It means you value what you do and the people you work with.

3.    Know the difference between justified and unjustified criticism.
All criticism is not created equally. Some criticism is just an opinion. It’s irrelevant to the task at hand, or it has zero reasoning behind it other than “I don’t like this.” It is a form of criticism that is about the person giving it more than anything else. Unjustified criticism should be given no extra attention or argument, just move to the next item. Bear in mind, with rare exceptions this tip does not really apply to your clients or media contacts.

4.    Don’t take it personally.
This one is so much easier said than done. Everything above indicates the many ways criticism feels personal, doesn’t it? But the bottom line is that, particularly with professional criticism, everyone is on the same team working towards the same goal. When someone gives feedback that sounds negative, is clearly not praise, but is completely justified in terms of the scope of the client or project, it’s not about you. Yes, the idea may be yours, or the words, or the concept, but it’s not about you. It’s about the team. Which leads me to – 

5.    Accept criticism graciously.
This one is not as difficult as it may appear. If the criticism is delivered via email or even text, take a moment to consider the criticism, remove the tone and the emotion, and don’t respond right away. Take time to craft a short and pleasant response. If it happens during a meeting or a presentation, take a breath, consider the criticism, and respond positively. Don’t offer excuses or defenses when no one is asking for them. Take it all in, and say thank you. Smiling is a natural diffuser and a good way to communicate that you understand they mean to help.

Constructive criticism creates a stronger professional, and knowing how to accept it without getting upset will help you as personally as it will professionally. It feels good, knowing that people value what you do enough to let it inspire them to contribute to your success. When we can push each other to be better, we all win.


To Be, or Not to Bee?

By Jennifer Kuenzer, TrizCom PR

Let's eat, grandma.jpg

I am a staunch proponent of the Oxford comma. I am rabid about the proper use of their/ there/ they’re; too/ to/ two; and you’re/ your. I bristle when I see “at” at the end of a sentence. But I do not call myself a “grammar queen” or some other variant – because I work for a company that employs a terrific editor (Hi, Allison!) who looks at my work and tells me where I have made errors according to the AP Style Guide, the resource used by the national media, as well as more general grammatical errors I incurred.

Even without being a grammar queen, I have always felt using proper language and grammar is important. I read Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss when it came out in 2003 and applauded almost every page. But I am not grammar or punctuation-perfect and still find myself mixed up on occasion. So many rules! I often turn to grammar websites. There are many, and while they do serve similar purposes, they communicate in different tones. I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorites. Each of the following sites has something about them that sets them apart from the others. But all have the same goal in mind – making you a better writer. Because whether you are writing a casual blog or putting together a formal proposal for a client, grammar counts.

The New Yorker: Comma Queen

The New Yorker’s Mary Norris hosts a series of short videos, clearly titled and cleverly presented, on everything from when to use affect vs. effect to pronouns for your pets. For any professional who finds themselves stuck on a rule they forgot or never quite learned in the first place, Comma Queen is a great and entertaining way to refresh your knowledge base.

Grammar Girl

This award-winning site is incredibly accessible. You can find it on all the social media sites. You can subscribe to the RSS feed or the podcast. You can even download the Grammar Girl app on your phone. Mignon Fogarty is the magazine writer, technical writer and entrepreneur behind Grammar Girl. Her lessons are short, easy to recall, easily put into practice and aimed at making you a better writer.

Oxford Dictionaries

The Oxford Dictionaries website has an uncluttered, easy to navigate grammar section. It’s all there and right at your fingertips: grammatical terms, proper grammar explanations and handy grammar tips. Coupled with the dictionary and a synonym finder, it’s an invaluable one-stop resource.


Another award winner, Grammarly is a grammar platform that can check your documents in real time, offering not only corrections to spelling and grammar, but also word choice and style mistakes. There is also a plagiarism checker that compares your uploaded texts against over 8 billion documents. It’s no replacement for an editor (nothing is), but it is a solid tool that will help you improve your writing.

Edited by Allison, who deleted the Oxford commas according to the AP Style Guide. Sigh.

Reaching New Heights

By Maelyn Schramm, TrizCom PR Intern


I love to rock climb. I started climbing in high school. I wasn’t very good, but I did it for the thrill. I didn’t even understand how routes worked: that certain rocks were “on” – allowed to be used – and others were off. But I did it anyway.

In college, I began to get the hang of it. I learned the different levels of routes. I started to understand special skills, techniques and verbiage like “jugs” – holds with excellent grip – and “smear” – dragging your foot along the wall.

Post-college, I’ve climbed regularly for over a month straight now. I went all in and purchased a membership just a few days ago. Now I can climb whenever I want at an all-inclusive price per month. I’ve already seen great improvement and have been able to bump up to higher levels in routes. It makes me feel accomplished and confident.

Perhaps what I love most about climbing is the thought process, the strategy that goes into reaching the top. First, I analyze the wall. I assess the hand and foot holds, and what order I should go in. Second, I think about how I need to twist my body, stretch my arms, point my toes. Lastly, I dive in. I attack the wall, muster up strength, ignore my weakening muscles. I keep my eyes on the prize: the last hold, the very top. I sweat and grunt and even whimper. But the satisfaction of reaching the top is always worth it.

The way I climb translates into the way I write. First, I analyze the assignment. I assess the theme and voice I should use, and the paragraphs’ flow. Second, I think about my choice of words, the rhetorical devices I should incorporate into my article. Lastly, I dive in. I attack my writing, muster up knowledge, ignore feelings of insufficiency. I keep my eyes on the prize: finishing the very last sentence, receiving an OK from my superiors. I pause and furrow my brows and bite my lip. But the praise from my superiors is always worth it.