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How to Deal with Criticism in English

Criticism can be tough. We want to be liked and not feel like we’re not good enough. And when it comes to English, criticism usually taps into some of the preconceived notions we have about our English skills.

We might think that our English is nowhere near our first language, and that it really shouldn’t be like that considering the time we invested in learning and using it. And when we get that criticism from a native speaker, it somehow appears more true and we get even more depressed.

It happened recently to one of my students, who lives in the US, and unfortunately it happens quite often. What happened with that student was that a native speaker commented on her English and told her that she should have had better English by now.

Now it’s not that criticism is bad by default but we should always consider the context and the way someone delivers it. In that case, that native speaker was clearly oblivious to what it means to be a non-native speaker. Many English native speakers have never experienced what it’s like to speak a second language and even to try building a better life for themselves in a different language.

So perhaps the first thing we should do if we’ve never been non-native speakers and gone through what non-native speakers go through, is to be more sensitive and even keep our criticism of someone’s English to ourselves.

But we can’t control other people’s actions. So what can we do when criticism is directed at our English? Watch the video and learn how I changed my own mindset in such situations.


Hey, welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar, and this is episode number 170. And today we are going to talk about criticism or, actually, receiving criticism.

Hey, hey, everyone. Thank you so much for tuning in for another episode. Now, if the word that I said at the beginning – criticism – made your skin crawl just a little bit, then you probably don’t like receiving criticism. Especially when it’s about your English, especially when it’s from people who have no idea who you are and what you’ve done to work on your English.

And a lot of times we take criticism the wrong way. We actually internalize it and we use it to confirm the things that we already believe about ourselves, like the worst things. Now, these are not real things, but criticism definitely does not help us to change our mind about the bad things that we think about ourselves and our English.

Now, since you’re here, you’re probably doing some work around changing your mindset and reframing your English experience. So, you try to manage the negative self-talk. But when we come across criticism, sometimes we go back to old thinking patterns and old habits of simply thinking how we are not good enough and our English’s not good enough.

So I talk about all of that on today’s podcast. And I hope that if you’re the kind of person who finds it difficult when you hear criticism, then you’re going to like this episode. Because I gave you a piece of advice that might help you deal with it in the future: a new perspective, a new way to look at things.

So I hope you enjoy it. And if you do like it, do me favor and take a moment to rate and review the podcast, so that other people who don’t know the podcast might see it and say, “Oh, maybe it is for me.” And they will become listeners too. All right. So, I hope you enjoy the episode. Let’s listen.

Hey everyone, it’s Hadar. Thank you so much for joining me. Today I want to talk about receiving criticism. Criticism is one of the hardest things to handle. Because we want to be liked, we want to be accepted. We want to be loved. We want to please people. And we don’t like to feel like we are not good enough. And usually, when we receive criticism – and it doesn’t matter if there is a source of truth in it or not – a lot of times it hits us deep in a place that sort of confirms our preconceived notion of us not being good enough.

Now I’m not saying that it is true. This is a psychological pattern that hits most of the population called the impostor syndrome. In fact, I talk a lot about the imposter syndrome on my podcast, and I’m going to link to the episode below if you want to hear more about that.

So when we receive criticism, instead of just objectively considering it and thinking whether or not it’s right or what can you learn from it, it immediately confirms our deepest fears and thoughts and feelings about not being good enough. And especially when it comes to English, we’re feeling like anyway our English is not good enough cause we always compare it to our native language.

And of course, it’s not going to feel good enough if you compare it to your first language. Because you know, for most people, the first language is, you know, so deeply rooted in them, and it’s a part of their personality and being that the second language will never be able to live up to it. And that is okay. We don’t need it to be, we need to create new space for the second language, and appreciate it for what it is.

Now, I decided to make this video because a few days ago one of my students shared something that happened to her. And I wanted to share it with you, and what I said to her, one piece of advice. I said a lot of things, but one thing that I said to her and to other students, and I think a really great way to handle such situations.

So, what happened was that she received a comment from a native speaker, telling her that based on the amount of work that she’s investing in her English and the time she has lived in the US, she should sound or speak better by now.

First of all, I categorize it as microaggression and a mild case of discrimination and even racism. Because, you know, when you don’t understand someone’s journey and where they come from, and you compare them to yourself – where you are the person in power and you have the privilege of being born into English – and you expect something from someone without having the experience of having it yourself, I think it’s very much detached and discriminatory. Because you don’t understand that people have different experiences, different sounds, different Englishes, different colors, different backgrounds, different cultures. Not everyone is like you and not everyone needs to be and sound like you.

So that comment is irrelevant and insensitive. And again, people with privilege don’t know what it’s like for people to learn a second language, and to immerse themselves in a culture and in a language and in a country that they weren’t born into. So let’s begin with the fact that if you haven’t mastered a second language and you’re able to speak fluently in that language and clearly, you have no right to criticize or comment on someone else’s accent, pronunciation, fluency, or level of English or whatever language they’re speaking.

Now, let’s assume it happens. Because there are insensitive, entitled, rude people who will always have something to say about other people’s performance, especially people who they feel are not as good as they are in certain areas. Like what happened with my student and many other students of mine. All right? So this is not an invented situation. Let’s assume this happens. We can’t control other people’s actions, but we can control our reaction, our emotional response, and our interpretation of what it is that they’re saying.

Here’s the problem with criticism and imposter syndrome. When someone says something negative about something that you are so afraid of and you believe that about yourself, what will end up happening is that you will use it as a confirmation to prove to yourself that what you think about yourself, your inner critic, the darkest part in you, is true.

Instead of saying, “That’s not true” or “That’s impossible” or “What is she talking about?”, you will say, “Oh, here. This is proof that I’m not good enough, that my pronunciation is not good enough, that I shouldn’t be living here, or I don’t deserve to live here or to speak, and I don’t belong.”

So, one, you need to remember that how you respond to it is very much subjective. And you can respond to it different. So what I would encourage you to do is to decide that you have, one – your inner critic that will agree with, you know, feedback and criticism, negative feedback and criticism, unhelpful feedback and criticism. But don’t forget that inside of you, you also have your guardian, or your supporter.

And your guardian is going to do whatever is possible in their power to protect you. You can also think of it as your protector. And when something happens that challenges you, you can choose who you want to hear their voice – your inner critic that will agree with it, or your guardian that will deflect it and fight it. And it’s up to you. Because again, we can’t change them, and it’s not our job to change them, they need to do their own work. But it’s your job to decide how you are going to respond to things, so that you will keep on the right track and the right path to success, and not deviate from it or stop or regress.

Because here’s the thing. When you receive feedback and you say, “Yes, it’s true”, and you internalize it and you feel bad about it, you’re actually agreeing with it. But how about this? Let’s assume someone says, “How long have you lived here? Four years? Oh, your English should be better by now.” Or, “Based on all the hard work that you’re doing, I don’t know why you don’t sound like a native speaker just yet.”

So, option one: “That is so true. I can’t believe it.” And then from that feeling, you will feel defeated and you would want to quit. Instead, what if you fight back, and what if you deflect that criticism? And what if you let your guardians step up and do the work? And instead of saying, “Yes, you’re right”, say, “Who do you think you are telling me this? You have no right commenting on my English. My English is none of business.”

So, that way, instead of internalizing it, you’re fighting it. Instead of agreeing with it, you’re rejecting it. Instead of letting it stop you or hold you back, you’re using it as fuel to motivate you to do it despite or they think, to prove them wrong, to prove to yourself that you are capable of doing anything you put your mind to. And that you are good enough, wherever you’re at. Your English is good enough. This is the job of your guardian that is inside of you. You just need to give it more space, instead of giving more space to the inner critic. That is the best way to deflect criticism.

And I’m not saying that you have to respond on the spot, but you could, like saying something like, “Oh, tell me how you did it. What other language do you speak, remind me? How did you do it that you got so fluent in… what was that? What’s the second language that you’re learning? I’d be happy to learn from you.” Okay.

Usually, and this is why I’m saying that this is a legit response, people who comment on your English and criticize your English – they have no idea what it’s like. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be criticizing. Now, yes, I know. You might say, “No, but fellow non-native speakers might say that”, or “People from my own country, they always criticize each other.” I know that sometimes this is a trend. And here I would categorize it as ‘people who gain power by making other people feel crappy’.

But again, the response should be the same. Who do you think you are? Who are you to tell me how I’m supposed or not supposed to sound like? Who are you to tell me who do I need to sound like? Become a fighter. Reject, deflect, and move forward. And that is my advice to you on how to deal with criticism and comments about your English.

What is your piece of advice for people who struggle with criticism, who get comments on their English or pronunciation or intonation or a voice? So I would love to hear from you. Put it in the comments and give us more ideas as to ways to deal with it mentally, technically, if you have specific sentences that you say to people. Because I think we can definitely all learn from each other.

When it comes to me, and you know I often get criticism, I have learned to deflect that and to reject that. And I usually make a joke about the comment, this is my way of handling it. I use humor because I have already taught myself to or trained myself to use the ‘who do you think you are?’ pattern, thinking pattern, whenever I get feedback. And no matter who that person is, right? Native speakers, not native speakers, teachers, non-teachers – I don’t care. You can’t tell me how I should sound or what I should sound like. And I hope that you got that from this episode.

All right. So thank you so, so much. And I hope that discussion in the comments is going to be fruitful. And as I said, I’ve added a bunch of useful videos in links to my podcast and other YouTube videos where I talk about similar things. So, if you want to build up your confidence and your resilience as an English speaker as a second language, then make sure to check those out.

And if you haven’t subscribed to my channel just yet, what are you waiting for? Click ‘subscribe’ and hit the bell to get notifications whenever I release a new video.

Thank you so much for being here. And I’ll catch you next time.

The InFluency Podcast
The InFluency Podcast
170. What To Do When Someone Criticizes Your English ?

How do you deal with criticism of your English? What is your piece of advice for people who struggle with comments on their English?

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