You can dish it out, but can you take it? PsychTests Releases Study on People's Ability to Handle Constructive Criticism reveals just how sensitive we can be when our ego is bruised by negative feedback.

MONTREAL, CANADA (MARKETWIRE) -- March 18, 2011, one of the web's foremost source of personality, career, and IQ assessments gets a little delicate with their Sensitivity to Criticism Test. Their study results show that while people are generally willing to accept negative feedback without becoming too defensive, there are certain factors that determine why some are more sensitive than others.

It starts with a tightening in the chest or jaw. Some describe it as a punch in the stomach. This is followed by a well of emotions - sadness, anger, shame, resentment and maybe a little guilt. Flashbacks of painful childhood memories of being chastised by an adult may filter briefly through the mind. It ends with one of the following scenarios: an angry outburst, a tirade of past achievements, a deer-in-the-headlights look, a resolve to come out better, smarter, stronger, or a desire to take sweet, subtle revenge.

This is what it's like to be criticized.

Even constructive feedback can be a bit of bitter pill to swallow, but with age comes wisdom. Data from PsychTests' study of how people handle criticism reveals that as age increases, sensitivity to criticism decreases. Perhaps we become less concerned about what others think of us or, hopefully, learn how to use negative feedback as a way to learn and grow. Of course, we may also learn, as we age, to filter out the things we just don't like. PsychTests' statistical results also reveal that women are more likely than men to internalize the negative emotions they feel when being criticized, in the form of feelings like guilt, shame, and embarrassment.

"Constructive criticism and criticism in general tend to affect people on three levels," explains Dr. Jerabek, president of the company. "Criticism triggers our cognitions, emotions, and behaviors. When someone offers us negative feedback, we either internalize our reaction and direct our thoughts and emotions inwardly, or re-direct them toward the factor that has caused our reaction in the first place - the critics themselves. Our data show however, that we tend to direct our feelings and thoughts about being criticized more towards ourselves. Essentially, we become our own worst critics. After being criticized, we label ourselves as failures or incompetents, and become discouraged or ashamed. We are also more likely to respond to criticism in passive aggressive ways (purposely ignoring the feedback, slacking off), rather than by lashing out."

Data from PsychTests study of over 3,000 people indicate that people are more likely to feel the impact of negative criticism on an emotional level. In general, however, the majority handle criticism in a professional manner, even if, on the inside, their pride is a little hurt. The ability to take criticism does have its benefits, after all. According to PsychTests, people who handle criticism in a mature manner (by accepting the feedback and striving to use it to improve themselves), are more likely to perform better at work, to have higher self-esteem, and to achieve better grades in school. Interestingly, in terms of grades, PsychTests data show that high-achieving students can be slightly tougher on themselves than those with good or average grades. Once again, they are more likely to internalize negative emotions that arise as a result of being criticized.

"It's important, especially for young people, to not generalize criticism," emphasizes Dr. Jerabek. "A poor grade on a paper or a low performance rating from a boss doesn't translate to 'I am a total failure in life and a useless human being' - even though it may feel that way on the spot. It's all in our perception. The important thing is to remove our ego from the situation, and get down to why we are being criticized. Is there a lesson to be learned? Is there a gap in my knowledge or skills that I could work on? Granted, some people may criticize to be spiteful, and some may lack the diplomatic finesse to serve the criticism without offending, but there's almost always a lesson at the core. Focus on the message, not the messenger."

Other interesting results from PsychTests' study:

  • 8% of test-takers admitted that people will avoid offering them advice for fear of offending them.
  • 13% absolutely refuse to accept negative feedback.
  • 14% believe that people who criticize do so out of jealousy or hatred.
  • 20% believe that people who are in a lower position or status than them have no business being critical of them.
  • 29% believe that most people criticize others in order to hurt, not help.
  • 31% have been told more than once that they don't take criticism well.
  • 34% become less motivated and don't work as hard when their work has been criticized.
  • 39% feel degraded when someone points out their mistakes.
  • 41% have gotten into an argument with someone more than once because they felt unjustly criticized.
  • 66% admit that they are hard on themselves when they fail, and will dwell on it.

Sensitivity to Criticism Test for HR purposes can go to:

Those who wish to take the test to assess their ability to handle constructive criticism can go to:

About Psychtests AIM Inc.

Psychtests originally appeared on the internet scene in 1997. Since its inception, it has become a pre-eminent provider of psychological assessment products and services to human resource personnel, therapists, academics, researchers and a host of other professionals around the world. Psychtests staff is comprised of a dedicated team of psychologists, test developers, researchers, statisticians, writers, and artificial intelligence experts. Psychtests was founded and is led by Dr. Ilona Jerabek, a specialist in the field of psychometric assessments and Vrat Jerabek Ph. D., a researcher and authority in the field of artificial intelligence.

Psychtests AIM Inc.
Ilona Jerabek, Ph.D., President
Tel: 1-888-855-6975