Becoming less sensitive to criticism is necessary if you have any desire to accomplish things in a social setting. Criticism is necessary for fixing problems, and inevitable in competitive, social environments.
Part of the sensitivity to criticism comes because of a trait called neuroticism. Neuroticism can lead people to negatively interpret events. Additionally, being lower on the social status ladder can make you take things more personally in an effort to gather sufficient data to improve yourself with.
Here are a few steps that will make you less sensitive if you practice.
The first step is to make sure you are healthy. This means making sure you aren’t overweight, your diet is healthy, your hormone levels are normal, your mental game is in check, and you are getting exercise. Being unhealthy, especially being overweight can actually lower your testosterone levels. Having a clear purpose to your life and being confident in yourself can also help.
The second step takes place when someone makes a critical or insulting comment. To handle this you need to separate yourself from the situation emotionally. By separating yourself emotionally you will be able to look a the situation from a logical and pragmatic point of view. Eliminating emotional decision making will lead you to better and more correct conclusions in the long run.
A simple trick for this is to simply not make any final decisions in the moment. Learn to hold of deciding or interpreting a comment until the next day when you have had time to form a better perspective.
There are a few other tricks for eliminating or minimizing the emotional reaction you might have in the moment. First you can ask yourself why this matters in the grand scheme of things. Think about what a small spec you are on earth and how large the universe is. Does the comment really matter so much?
Another way to minimize emotional involvement is by having clear goals. If your goals are clear you can better see the best course of action. Maybe responding to and thinking about the comment is important to your goals. But maybe it isn’t. Choose instead to focus on what tasks need to be done.
Similar to this technique is the meditative technique. Focus on feeling your breath and body in the present. This will help you control your emotions. Realize that fighting back is not always advantageous to you. At least you have to exhaust some power to deal with the situation. At most you are actively teaching your enemy how to bother you and what techniques you will use to deal with challenges. Don’t attack back lightly or without thought.
Finally comes the most important and useful technique for dealing with emotions. Reframe the attack. First you can look at the insult or criticism as a validation of your value. People wouldn’t attack or criticize you if you or your actions didn’t matter. You can also reframe by seeing the insult as a chance to gather information on the person. Step back and study them like a scientist might study an animal. What is making them act this way?
If you have successfully made it to this point, you’ve distanced yourself emotionally from the comment or situation. Now think about it rationally. Is there evidence that this event wasn’t an accident? Can it be explained away? Is this person a friend or a foe? What happens if you underestimate the event? Overestimate? Answering these questions will help you know how to respond with the best long term strategy.
Keep practicing separating yourself emotionally from situations where you might feel sensitive. Just like with meditative practice, you will begin to experience more and more benefits in the long run.