Being nice to colleagues is one of the first casualties when work gets stressful. So how can we develop a thicker skin and become more resilient when we’re in a fast-paced environment that produces criticism that stings us?

Most of us can shrug off a certain amount of criticism by telling ourselves not to take the comment personally. But when you are face to face with someone who accuses you of lying, betraying their trust, or not caring about other team members, it’s hard not to take it a little personally.

Many of us work in fast-paced, high-stress environments and we know how important it is to have a strong mind. So what happens when we realize that we actually do care what people think of us?

Being sensitive to criticism can hold you back. Here are 5 ways you can develop a thicker skin to become more resilient:

1. Welcome Constructive Criticism

Every successful leader and entrepreneur has not only been criticized in their career, but they have also failed spectacularly at something along the way.

If criticism is coming your way because of something you did wrong, be thankful that someone is willing to take the time to let you know how badly you did mess up. So what if the tone is loud and the words are sharp!

Grit up!

If there is a nugget of information that can help you become more successful, grab onto it and let it teach you what you need to know. When feeling down in the dumps after her employees blamed her for glitch on a marketing program, a friend of mine was told by her boss, “It’s time to put your big-girl panties on now.”

Maybe his words were not politically-correct or even polite, but my friend got the message—grow up and face the fact that there will be a few bruises and scars in moving up the ladder of success. The key is to sift through the dross to find the nugget of wisdom—and learn from it.

TIP: Become more resilient by writing down the basics of a critical comment so you can go over it later, when emotions have been tamped down, and you can take a closer look at the facts. Address the errors you made and how you will avoid doing the same in the future.

2. Throw Out The Junk Comments

Just as it’s important to squeeze every ounce of understanding out of a criticism laden with constructive observation, be smart enough to jettison the junk comments that reflect more on the person speaking than your performance.

Stress makes us more emotional and blurting out hurtful or negative comments is common. The reason is that stress decreases our “working memory.” which is the amount of information we hold in our mind.

When we are under stress, our working memory doesn’t allow us to access big chunks of information about the individual whom we are criticizing. All our brain can access is why we’re pissed off at this person. As a result, we say things we really do not mean.

This is when we shouldn’t take a negative criticism personally.

TIP: As you think about a conversation or communication, separate fact from interpretation.

3. Nurture Important Relationships

When you are being assaulted by negative comments and criticism at work, it’s critical that you stay close to people who will support and encourage you. If you do not have strong connections with a core group of friends or family, take the time to do so.

Relationships with others reminds us that we are not alone and that all of us struggle. Talk out your fears and concerns. Once you do, you may find that people who exude the outward appearance of confidence and success have the same fears and concerns that you do.

This is where self-care becomes very important if you want to become more resilient.

When you’re stressed, it’s easy to become worn down emotionally and physically. Even minor stressors feel like a major event.

TIP: Seek out supportive friends or family members so you can give and receive the assistance that we all need at times. This includes developing a proper relationship with yourself—make healthy lifestyle choices that remind you that you’re a priority.

4. Create A Success List

Most critical remarks contain a combination of constructive and junk comments. It’s not always easy to quickly sort out the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Make a list of some of your accomplishments in your current situation. If you don’t feel good about your contributions, you will take the criticism harder.

Whenever you are feeling down or unjustly criticized, take a long and loving look at that list. Remember that you’ve made significant impact on your work environment and that all the negativity flowing around you does not accurately represent your accomplishments. The right attitude will help you become more resilient.

TIP: Writing stuff down helps you to visualize, so keep paper and pen handy. Typing your list out on a computer does not satisfy the brain’s need for visualization. Remember projects that have gone well, people you have helped out, or prospects who were happy with your services.

5. Examine The Deeper Wound

The ability to look at a criticism objectively has a lot to do with self-awareness. Sometimes the reason a person’s comment hurts so deeply is because it pricks at a deeper wound from our past.

Self-awareness will allow you to identify the original injury so you can gain proper perspective on your reaction to your current situation. For example, if image is extremely important to you, any implied criticism that calls into question the image you are portraying will wound more deeply than other ones.

We often do not realize the tender places from our past, and a rejection found in a critical remark can unconsciously take you all the way back to why you didn’t get the red ball in the playground.

TIP: Spend time getting to know who you are, what makes you tick, and what pushes your buttons. Not all childhood memories will be pleasant, but toughen up. Pretending painful past experiences aren’t influencing your behavior in negative ways today is just plain stupid.

No one gets a pass on life. Scars from life’s battles are the places where we are the toughest and our skin is the thickest. Do not let those experiences slip away before you’ve had the chance to learn all they have to teach you.

How have you developed a thicker skin and become more resilient?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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