Dealing with criticism positively is an important life skill. If you’re like many of us, you don’t know how to accept criticism—even constructive criticism.
At some point in your life, you will be criticized, perhaps in a professional way. Sometimes it will be difficult to accept – but that all depends on your reaction.
You can either use criticism in a positive way to improve, or in a negative way that can lower your self-esteem and cause stress, anger, or even aggression.
Don’t take it personally
First, understand that the person offering constructive criticism does not intend to make you feel bad about yourself. Rather, they recognize your strengths and are giving you the tools to recognize and overcome weaknesses. It’s up to you to turn that feedback into something positive that motivates you to keep working hard and to improve.
Some people have a tendency to react negatively to constructive criticism. They might try to defend themselves, or escalate the tone of the conversation. It’s better to stay calm and really listen to what the person has to say. The key is to be receptive to advise from others.
2. Remember the Benefit of Getting Feedback
Now, you have a few seconds to quickly remind yourself of the benefits of receiving constructive criticism—namely, to improve your skills, work product, and relationships, and to help you meet the expectations that your manager and others have of you. You should also try to curtail any reaction you’re having to the person who is delivering the feedback. It can be challenging to receive criticism from a co-worker, a peer, or someone that you don’t fully respect, but remember, accurate and constructive feedback comes even from flawed sources.
3. Say Thank You
Next (and this is a hard part, I know), look the person in the eyes and thank them for sharing feedback with you. Don’t gloss over this—be deliberate, and say, “I really appreciate you taking the time to talk about this with me.”
Expressing appreciation doesn’t have to mean you’re agreeing with the assessment, but it does show that you’re acknowledging the effort your colleague took to evaluate you and share his or her thoughts.
4. Stop Your First Reaction
At the first sign of criticism, before you do anything—stop. Really. Try not to react at all! You will have at least one second to stop your reaction. While one second seems insignificant in real life, it’s ample time for your brain to process a situation. And at that moment, you can halt a dismissive facial expression or reactive quip and remind yourself to stay calm.
5. Work towards a solution
It is now time to process constructive criticism. This is a good time to clarify any misunderstandings, as well as share your viewpoint. Ask questions that help you understand what the issue is and what you can do to address the issue moving forward. Because nothing was taken personally, you can be more focused on understanding the feedback and coming up with a solution. You can speak from a settled state of mind and keep the dialogue productive and professional.
Constructive criticism allows us to learn about our weaknesses while continuing to grow and improve. Keep an open mind and recognize that the person who is giving you advice just wants to see you succeed.