How to take criticism

Nobody likes receiving negative feedback, but reacting with tears or anger could cost you respect, a promotion, and even your job. Learn how to take criticism like a pro now and you can distinguish yourself as a confident and capable professional.

how to take criticism

1. Take a deep breath

Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Don’t let your imagination run away with you and ignore your first instinct to deflect the feedback, or to become angry or embarrassed. Relax your posture and prepare yourself to listen as objectively as possible.

2. Assume good intentions

There are a lot of benefits to receiving feedback, no matter the source. When it comes from a manager or supervisor you respect, feedback can be difficult to hear, but it’s easy to assume your critic has good intentions. When you don’t like your manager or supervisor, or when the criticism comes from a colleague or peer, it’s tempting to dismiss what’s being said. Instead, slow down and listen carefully. Feedback is difficult to give as well as receive, and it’s best if you assume that your critic wants you to be successful enough to endure the awkwardness of offering unsolicited feedback.

3. Listen to understand

Listen carefully without interrupting. When your critic is done, repeat back what you heard. For example “I hear you saying I’ve been rushing through assignments and making too many mistakes, and you’d like me to slow down and proofread my work, is that right?” This allows your critic to clarify their meaning if you’ve missed their point or if they weren’t clear when they gave the feedback in the first place. You don’t need to analyze their assessment to let them know that you hear what they’re saying and that you value feedback.

4. Don’t get defensive or make excuses

Of course the person critiquing you doesn’t understand you or your perspective, and you know what? Let it go. You don’t have to agree with your critic for the feedback to be useful to you.

5. Don’t take it personally

It’s easy to imagine that someone who’s criticizing you is “out to get you” but the truth is usually that they are trying to help you. Professional feedback is useful and necessary to improve your performance.

6. Say thank you

This is the hardest part but being able to do it will distinguish you from your colleagues. Say directly and sincerely, “thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to give me that feedback.”

7. Don’t beat yourself up

Remember that no one is perfect and everyone has areas for improvement. It’s better to make a mistake and receive feedback than to make the same mistake over and over because you refused to accept criticism.

8. Request a follow up

If your critic is a supervisor or manager, it’s a good idea to request a time to check in with them for further feedback. This demonstrates a positive attitude and a willingness to learn and accept your imperfections. Your boss will appreciate your effort to improve your performance, and you can get more valuable feedback.

BONUS

Keep a file of your accomplishments and positive feedback. This file will be very helpful when it comes time to switch jobs, as you have physical proof of your positive impact at your current job. It’s also a good idea to review your file when you’re feeling down on yourself so you can focus on the positive feedback as well as the negative feedback you receive.

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