Handling criticism positively is an important life skill.There will be a point in your life where you will be criticized; perhaps in a professional way, or maybe not so tactfully. Sometimes it will be difficult to accept – but that all depends on your reaction.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always admired people who had to the ability to gracefully accept constructive criticism. No matter how hard I tried, it seemed that trait was going to elude me for the rest of my life. The very moment I hear the words of critique focused in my direction, my heartbeat quickens and my mind begins to race—firstly in search of any reason for this assault on my person (that’s the way I see it) and then for a retort or smart comeback to rationalize whatever actions are in question.
And I know I’m not alone. Regrettably, in the heat of the moment, we have the tendency to react with defensiveness and anger or sometimes, even worse, we attack the person giving us feedback. But the bitter truth is, we need to get over ourselves and accept correction. Whether we want to admit it or not, we know that constructive criticism is very important—how else would we identify our weaknesses and areas we need to improve on?
Being able to accept criticism calmly and professionally will only help us preserve relationships and be more successful in everything we do.
So how do you learn to kill that defensive attitude? The next time you receive constructive criticism from your boss or even a peer, use these steps to handle the encounter with tact and finesse.
Stop Your First Reaction
At the first sign of criticism, that split second before you do anything, STOP!
I mean stop. Don’t do anything, don’t think, and try not to react at all! You have about, one second to kill your reaction. While one second might seem so insignificant in real life, it’s more than enough time for your brain to process a situation. And in that second, you can halt a dismissive facial expression or reactive clever remark and remind yourself to stay calm.
The art of listening is gradually becoming extinct. Sadly as it turns out, listening is a big part of how we communicate with others. In fact, it consists of 85 percent of our communication. I understand how easy it can be to get defensive or upset when we are forced to hear something negative about ourselves. It’s also very easy to jump to conclusions; you start thinking that your boss or one of your colleagues hates you and all of that. Calm down, take a few deep breaths, slow down and really listen to what is being said. If you get too self conscious and angry then you can’t listen carefully and you might miss something important.
Say Thank You
I can see raised eyebrows already on this point. Don’t worry I raised mine too when the point came crashing into my brain and yeah, I think this is the hardest part. But it’s something you’ve got to do in order to get over yourself. Look the person in the eyes and thank him or her for sharing feedback with you. Now don’t gloss over this and do that fake ‘thank you’. You have to be deliberate, and say, “I really appreciate that fact that you took the time to talk about this with me.” Now don’t get me wrong, expressing appreciation doesn’t necessarily have to mean you’re agreeing with their opinion or assessment, but it goes a long way to show that you’re acknowledge the effort he or she took to evaluate you and share his or her thoughts.
If your boss told you to do some things differently, or out rightly asked you to stop doing them altogether, in my opinion, I think you should. It will only make you look very bad if you don’t listen and keep behaving the same. And if you don’t, you will only end up back in your boss’ office listening to the same constructive criticism all over again.
You can never go wrong by asking question. If you hear something that confuses or throws you off balance and makes you unsure of how to proceed, don’t be scared to ask your boss or whoever is doing the talking. This will only help you get a clearer picture of what you need to do or change in order to excel in your position. If your boss has a heart and a head, he or she will most likely welcome questions from you because it only goes to show that you were really listening and that you are absolutely committed to succeeding in your position from now on.
Constructive criticism, most often than not, is the main way we learn about our weaknesses—without it we can’t improve. When we’re always on the defensive, instead of gracefully accepting our faults, we run the risk of missing out on important insights. Remember, feedback is not easy to give and it’s certainly not easy to receive; but it will help us now and in the long run.
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