Is there an English word to refer to someone who tolerates (or welcomes, accepts) criticism given about them? Is there an adjective to use for such a person?

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    Unusual,perhaps. – TimLymington Jan 13 '15 at 20:06
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    Yeah, I'd say pretty rare. (I know you guys think I tolerate criticism well, but it's only because there's so little to criticize me for in the first place.) – Hot Licks Jan 13 '15 at 21:07
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    Surprised the number of people who see this as some kind of negative character trait (meek, submissive, etc.). It's a very GOOD thing to be able to do! Judicious, agreeable, amenable are all words I would use. – Dave Kanter Jan 13 '15 at 22:25
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    @ermanen how does criticism resemble ridicule? – JasonStack Jan 14 '15 at 9:17
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    "Sensible", particularly if they're in academia :) – Stuart Golodetz Jan 14 '15 at 10:18

16 Answers 16

You might say they are thick-skinned, if the criticism is particularly harsh or undeserved. Assuming a more constructive environment, you could say something like receptive to criticism or open to feedback. If they actually try to alter their behavior to correct for past mistakes, you might go further and say they are responsive to criticism.

If you are telling them what a third party said, they are humble - if you are criticizing them directly, they are receptive.

  • Does receptive alone convey the meaning intended? – JasonStack Jan 13 '15 at 19:37
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    Its meaning is more like "accepting" or "open-minded", but in the context of, say: "I bluntly told him his deficiencies as a human being and, contrary to my expectations, he was very receptive," it is pretty specific. – Oldbag Jan 13 '15 at 19:47

Perhaps the word that you are looking for is Amenable

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/amenable?searchDictCode=all

Or, if you want to show the person in a positive light, you mean he (or she) is an Accepting person or individual.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/accepting

I have heard people with this (highly desirable) character trait referred to as "egoless".

approachable or open to feedback.

As there isn't a specific context given, I'm going to suggest a self-explanatory term:

criticism-tolerant.

It is a neologism and not a common word but everyone would understand. I thought about it first but someone had already thought about it before me as it is used in a few sources. Two of them are as below:

If criticism were an object, some people would think of it as a dagger, a spear, or a two by four aimed at the head. Too few think of it as a gift that can be useful and lead to beneficial long-term change. The difference may have something to do with our relationship to the "criticizer," how criticism-tolerant we are, and how it has been delivered. There are also some people who cannot handle any criticism no matter how mild, well presented, and justified.

richardbjoelsondsw.com / Handling Criticism


...that because the nature of the people is polite, and the society is not criticism-tolerant, assertive journalism is not practicable.

Asian Profile, Volume 6, Asian Research Service

Something occurred to me just after I answered. I also know some people who 'nod and agree' all the time and never defend their position. I would call these people easy going or yes people.

See here:

  • Wow! tons of synonyms out there :) – JasonStack Jan 13 '15 at 22:42

People sometimes misunderstand the intentions of others; to be a critic isn't necessarily to have a degrading opinion of others. Think about movie critics for example, it is possible to give a good review, but their profession is to detail the good, the bad, and the ugly.

To be of critical, or skeptical, nature is not necessarily to give detrimental feedback, but to provide honest and in-depth feedback to the writer.

In this context, I would say they are receptive.

In the more common definition of critical, to provide detrimental feedback; I would say they are humble.

Other than "egoless" (suggested above), the best term I could think of was "unpretentious".

I would call the quality "equanimity," especially if the criticism were harsh or unfair.

"When the critic wrote that the chef's soup might have been previously used as window cleaner, the chef reacted with suprising equanimity, saying 'He's right - I wasn't on my game that night.'"

This is interesting! First, we are looking for a word that describes the trait of welcoming and being open to criticism. Accepting, receptive, open-minded, criticism-tolerant, all convey the meaning, but only "criticism-tolerant" is self-contained in the sense that no further words need to be added to link to "criticism". (I recall that the words I used with my team when I joined the new assignment a month ago to describe my approach to things was "open-minded", open to dissent or disagreement) Second, some people here seem to see this openness as a weakness. It is not. It is a reflection of self-confidence as well as respect for the other, both together.

It depends very much on whether the criticism is destructive or constructive. Some people find reason to destructively criticize anything.

Suppose the leader of some country finds THE cure to cancer, not just one kind of cancer, but the cure to all cancers. Someone from an opposing political faction in that country is inevitably going to find fault with that. Listening to that criticism is downright foolish.

Suppose on the other hand someone (not necessarily the leader of a country) finds something that is close to THE cure to cancer. Suppose some other knowledgable person looks at what she has done and tells her, "That's not quite right, but WOW. This is so close! What happens if you tweak this element of your solution ever so slightly, this way?" That's constructive criticism, and that's the kind of stuff that does lead to the cure for cancer. There's a big difference between destructive and constructive criticism.

Only a fool pays attention to all forms criticism. A wise person pays very sharp attention to constructive criticism. So which is it, "fool" or "wise"? Those are the range of synonyms you are seeking. Which is which depends very much on context.

I'd say a good term would be: open minded.

Not necessarily because of the strict dictionary definition, but because in these days it takes an uncommon open-mindness and inner strength to tolerate or even welcome criticism. Those looking at a negative connotation of "tolerate criticism" are "modern days thinkers", who have been teached a destructive approach at relations, mostly based on "defeating" or "besting" your interlocutor rather than constructively build a relation.

  • Is this term used in contemporary English for such behavior? – JasonStack Jan 15 '15 at 13:10
  • Define "contemporary English" first, please. I am not a native English speaker but I daily talk both with some natives and many who aren't. If I use such term, both those categories understand my meaning. – Dario Fumagalli Jan 16 '15 at 9:40
  • by contemporary I mean everyday English used currently by people in conversation and writing. You use it with native people, then it'd be ok. – JasonStack Jan 16 '15 at 9:50
  • Yes I do use it with native people. I live in Canary Islands, we get a lot of native English tourists coming here every day. – Dario Fumagalli Jan 16 '15 at 10:28

Some people I know are open to criticism and really welcome it. I have heard such people been referred to as genuine intellects or true academics.

I accept criticism all of the time, but sometimes defend my position. When I do accept criticism, I would call myself the learner, the the critic, the teacher. What is the context?

  • no certain context is intended. I am looking for a general term. – JasonStack Jan 13 '15 at 21:27

Maybe malleable. You might see this word about someone being mentored.

I would call him submissive or unassertive

According to TFD:

adj. 1. of, tending towards, or indicating submission, humility, or servility

adj. 1. inclined or ready to submit; unresistingly or humbly obedient. 2. marked by or indicating submission.

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    Submissive and unassertive are both terms tangential to one's ability to accept criticism. An assertive person may tolerate or even welcome feedback. – Stephen Jan 14 '15 at 5:19
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    Having a fair-minded, balanced approach to critical feedback is more often a sign of self-assured confidence than it is of servility. – user568458 Jan 15 '15 at 0:18
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    As you may be puzzled by the downvotes: Nowadays 'criticism' is often used as a euphemism for 'attack', but the basic meaning is still that of feedback that can be positive as well as negative. In the context of the question, what is meant is clearly constructive criticism and people who respond to it on a factual level. The most common response to such criticism, when it's negative, is to treat it as an attack and become hostile. Your words only really fit if someone treats the criticism as an attack and capitulates, completely ignoring the factual content, so not learning from it. – Hans Adler Jan 15 '15 at 11:49

protected by tchrist Feb 22 '15 at 3:59

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