How to handle constructive criticism

Contents

Taking Constructive Criticism Like a Champ

I’ve always envied people who can graciously accept constructive criticism. It seems I was not born with that trait, and throughout my career I’ve struggled with receiving feedback, even when it was entirely accurate. At the moment I hear the words of critique, my heartbeat quickens and my mind begins to race—first in search of an explanation for this assault on my person and then for a retort to rationalize whatever actions are in question.

And I’m not alone. Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment, many of us react with defensiveness and anger or—even worse—attack the person giving us feedback. But the truth is, we need to get over it. We know there’s value in constructive criticism—how else would we identify weaknesses and areas of improvement?—and being able to handle it calmly and professionally will only help us maintain relationships and be more successful in everything we do.

So how do you learn to back off the defensive? The next time you receive constructive criticism from your manager or a peer, use this six-step process to handle the encounter with tact and grace.

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 in that moment, you can halt a dismissive facial expression or reactive quip and remind yourself to stay calm.

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. Listen for Understanding

You’ve avoided your typical reaction, your brain is working, and you’ve recalled all the benefits of feedback—high-five! Now, you’re ready to engage in a productive dialogue as your competent, thoughtful self (as opposed to your combative, Mean Girls self).

As the person shares feedback with you, listen closely. Allow the person to share his or her complete thoughts, without interruption. When he or she is done, repeat back what you heard. For example, “I hear you saying that you want me to provide more detailed weekly reports, is that right?” At this point, avoid analyzing or questioning the person’s assessment; instead, just focus on understanding his or her comments and perspective. And give the benefit of the doubt here—hey, it’s difficult to give feedback to another person. Recognize that the person giving you feedback may be nervous or may not express his or her ideas perfectly.

4. Say Thank You

(and this is a hard part, I know), look the person in the eyes and thank him or her 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.

5. Ask Questions to Deconstruct the Feedback

Now it’s time to process the feedback—you’ll probably want to get more clarity at this point and share your perspective. Avoid engaging in a debate; instead, ask questions to get to the root of the actual issues being raised and possible solutions for addressing them. For example, if a colleague tells you that you got a little heated in a meeting, here are a few ways to deconstruct the feedback:

  • Seek specific examples to help you understand the issue: “I was a little frustrated, but can you share when in the meeting you thought I got heated?”
  • Acknowledge the feedback that is not in dispute: “You’re right that I did cut him off while he was talking, and I later apologized for that.”
  • Try to understand whether this is an isolated issue (e.g., a mistake you made once): “Have you noticed me getting heated in other meetings?”
  • Seek specific solutions to address the feedback: “I’d love to hear your ideas on how I might handle this differently in the future.”

6. Request Time to Follow Up

Hopefully, by this point in the conversation, you can agree on the issues that were raised. Once you articulate what you will do going forward, and thank the person again for the feedback, you can close the conversation and move on.

That said, if it’s a larger issue, or something presented by your boss, you may want to ask for a follow-up meeting to ask more questions and get agreement on next steps. And that’s OK—it’ll give you time to process the feedback, seek advice from others, and think about solutions.

Constructive criticism is often the only way we learn about our weaknesses—without it we can’t improve. When we’re defensive, instead of accepting and gracious, we run the risk of missing out on this important insight. 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.

This article was originally published on The Daily Muse. For more on dealing with criticism in the office, check out:

  • Conquer Performance Review Panic
  • Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Handling Criticism at Work
  • Giving Constructive Criticism—That Won’t Make Anyone Cringe

Nicole Lindsay is a career development expert and working on her first book about women and business school. Connect with her at www.DiversityMBAPrep.com or @MBAMinority.

Photo of woman getting feedback courtesy of .

How to Handle Constructive Criticism in a Healthy Way

Learning how to accept and respond to feedback is an important part of your personal and professional development.

Applying the feedback you receive from others – whether it’s a professor, a supervisor, a colleague or a peer – can help you be more successful and meet the expectations you’ve set for yourself and those that others have set for you.

Here’s how you should seek to handle constructive criticism and how you can use it to your advantage:

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 advice from others.

Keep an open mind

Keeping an open mind allows you to properly engage yourself in the process. When the person giving the feedback has finished sharing their thoughts, you can think about what they said and begin to self-examine. Make sure you express that you are thankful for their feedback – and make sure you are being sincere. Communicating gratitude doesn’t mean you are approving the assessment, but it shows that you are recognizing the evaluation and appreciate their thoughts.

Work towards a solution

It is now time to process the 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.

7 Steps To Taking Constructive Criticism Like a Champ

Sometimes, it seems like people who take constructive criticism affably aren’t phased by it. It’s as if they were born this way, and know nothing about struggling when receiving feedback. You wish to be like them but instead, you keep pitying yourself. “Well, yes, I’m the one who will catch my heart jumping out of my chest every time I have a work-related conversation with my boss or colleague. So what?” you think, “Just another weakness. Everyone has them. I’ll survive.”

Do you really want to be that person? No? Then forget all the excuses, and don’t be. Yes, it’s as simple as that.

The truth is, there’s no such thing as a congenital trait to accept criticism graciously. The ability to give a polite response to critique is just one more useful habit you can and need to develop. Here is how.

We need very strong ears to hear ourselves judged frankly, and because there are few who can endure frank criticism without being stung by it, those who venture to criticize us perform a remarkable act of friendship, for to undertake to wound or offend a man for his own good is to have a healthy love for him.

– Michel de Montaigne

1. Realize the value

When criticism arrives, many people struggle to control themselves in the moment, and react with confusion or even anger. Some people even get defensive and attack the person who provided the feedback.

This behavior won’t lead you to success. You have to get over it. If the critique is constructive, then the person who offered it cares about you and is trying to help you, not hurt you. In fact, you need constructive criticism to spot your weaknesses and areas of improvement. Accepting the critique calmly will help you to maintain your professional relationships and achieve your goals faster.

2. Take your time

The moment the first signs of criticism appear, take your courage in both hands, and don’t panic. Give yourself time to process the situation and calm down. If you can’t make yourself look directly at the person who is giving you feedback, it’s okay. Do not force yourself to smile or say anything. It’s better not to react at all.

This way, you’ll kill two birds with one stone: being silent will allow you to show you care because you don’t interrupt the speaker, and you’ll make a good impression by handling the critique maturely.

3. Appreciate the feedback

After you take control over your emotions, be sure to bear in mind the many benefits of constructive criticism. Criticism helps you improve your skills, develop good relationships with colleagues, and get closer to achieving your goals.

Now, having grasped the positive impact of the feedback, it’s time to engage in the conversation and start listening carefully.

4. Interact

You’ve stopped the panic, taken control of your negative emotions, and reminded yourself of all the benefits of receiving constructive criticism. Well done! Now, you’re ready to carry on a productive dialogue.

First of all, be open-minded. If a person decided to share her or his thoughts about your work and progress, he or she probably has a strong reason for it and can offer you insights that will help you improve your results. So, let them express their opinion without interruption.

Once the person has finished, he or she would like to hear what you’re thinking. Take this chance to show that you respect others’ opinions. First, repeat the request you’ve received as you understood it. For instance, “I hear you want me to change my priorities and spend more time on the new project we got last month?” Do not let yourself analyze or critique the request. Shush you inner doubter. Remember, the person who gives you feedback can feel uncomfortable too, and express their ideas in an unclear way. Thus, your main task here is to focus on clarifying the exact nature of the criticism.

5. Ask questions

You don’t have to start arguing or debating, but you need to ask questions to deconstruct the feedback and prevent misunderstandings in the future. For example, if your boss told you he or she liked your vision but found your arguments at the last meeting unpersuasive, you could:

  • Ask if it was just one point of your vision that you couldn’t express clearly, or the whole idea. For example: “I know, sometimes, when I’m excited, my presentation can be rambling. Can you tell me how I might make my statements easier to understand? Would flip charts maybe help?”
  • Admit your weakness: “Yes, it’s true, I can be confusing when expressing my thoughts. I’m working on it. Perhaps I should consider attending speaking classes. What do you think?”
  • Be open to advice: “Maybe you’ve experienced this problem before and can give me some advice?”

6. Say thank you

It’s not easy, it’s true. But it’s necessary. After clearing things up, look your colleague in the eye, and thank them for giving you feedback. Do not throw “thanks“ over your shoulder on the way out. Do it deliberately and thoughtfully. Say “I appreciate your comments. Thank you for sharing them.”

The words of appreciation don’t mean you agree with the comments, but they show you respect your colleagues and value their opinion.

7. Show your engagement

If the critique is clear and you know how to handle the situation, you can end the conversation by saying thank you, and then move on. But if it’s a larger issue, or the feedback was provided by your boss, you can ask for a follow-up meeting to track your progress and gather your ideas. This way, you show your colleagues that you’re a team player; you don’t hide from problems, but try to solve them promptly.

Constructive criticism is your ally, not your enemy

Constructive criticism is key to self-improvement. It’s only when we know our flaws that we can work on them. Giving a hostile reception to constructive critique instead of taking it graciously won’t do you any good. Sure, feedback is not easy to take, but it’s very helpful now and extremely useful in the long run.

Dealing with Criticism

See also: Giving Constructive Criticism

Dealing with criticism positively is an important life skill.

At some point in your life you will be criticised, 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.

To deal with criticism positively may require good self-esteem and some assertiveness skills, you may find our pages: Improving Self-Esteem and Assertiveness useful.

There are two types of criticism – constructive and destructive – learning to recognise the difference between the two can help you deal with any criticism you may receive.

Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving.

Dale Carnegie – How to Win Friends and Influence People

When challenged by another person, it is common to react in a negative manner. Consider how negative reactions make you look – and more importantly how they make you feel. The way in which you choose to handle criticism has a knock-on effect in various aspects of your life, therefore it is better to identify ways in which you can benefit from criticism and use it to your advantage to be a stronger and more able person.

Constructive and Destructive Criticism

The difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism is the way in which comments are delivered.

Although both forms are challenging your ideas, character or ability, when someone is giving destructive criticism it can hurt your pride and have negative effects on your self-esteem and confidence. Destructive criticism is often just thoughtlessness by another person, but it can also be deliberately malicious and hurtful. Destructive criticism can, in some cases, lead to anger and/or aggression.

See our pages: What is Stress? | What is Anger? and Dealing with Aggression for more information.

Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is designed to point out your mistakes, but also show you where and how improvements can be made. Constructive criticism should be viewed as useful feedback that can help you improve yourself rather than put you down.

When criticism is constructive it is usually easier to accept, even if it still hurts a little. In either scenario always try to remember that you can use criticism to your advantage.

See our page: Giving and Receiving Feedback for more information.

A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful.

Proverbs 28:13

Dealing with Critical People

Some individuals are critical by nature and do not always realise that they are hurting the feelings of another person.

If you know a person who is critical of everything try not to take their comments too seriously, as this is just part of their character trait. If you do take negative comments to heart it can create resentment and anger towards the other person, which could damage the relationship.

Remember, people who criticise everything or make scathing remarks to be hurtful are the ones that need help – not you!

How you physically react to criticism will depend on the nature of the criticism, where you are and who the criticism is coming from.

The key thing to remember is that whatever the circumstance is, don´t respond in anger as this will cause a scene and create bad feelings – and possibly a bad image of you.

Try to remain calm and treat the other person with respect and understanding. This will help to defuse the situation and potentially stop it from getting out of hand. Show that you are the stronger person and try not to rise to the bait, do not use it as a reason to offer counter criticism. If you challenge the other person you may start an argument that is probably unnecessary.

If you find it difficult to cope with criticism you may find our page: Anger Management helpful.

If you do feel that you may lose self-control, or say or do something potentially damaging, walk away. If you are in a meeting at work, politely excuse yourself and leave the room until you have had time to gather yourself. Even though somebody´s negative remarks may hurt, it is more harmful for you to allow their criticism to be destructive to your confidence.

Taking the Positives Out of Criticism

We all make mistakes all the time, it is human nature. As we go through life we have plenty of opportunity to learn and improve ourselves. Therefore, no matter what kind of criticism is aimed at you, analyse it to find something you can learn from it. In material matters at work, school or social clubs for example, try to take criticism on board to help you improve. When somebody is attacking your character it is hard to accept, but that does not mean you should ignore it.

Also bear in mind that the criticism aimed at you may not make sense at the time. Generally speaking, there is usually some truth in criticism, even when it appears to be given out of spite and bitterness. It is often the case that a slight on your character is a fair reflection of how another person sees you at that point in time. Take a step back and try to see things from the other person’s point of view, perhaps ask a friend for their honest opinion – use criticism wisely and as a learning experience. See if it is possible to learn a little about how others perceive you, you may be able to use criticism to improve your interpersonal skills.

We all learn by making mistakes, and learning how to deal with criticism positively is one way that we can improve our interpersonal relationships with others.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

Conflict Resolution and Mediation

Learn more about how to effectively resolve conflict and mediate personal relationships at home, at work and socially.

Our eBooks are ideal for anyone who wants to learn about or develop their interpersonal skills and are full of easy-to-follow, practical information.

Why Choose Us

How do you handle constructive criticism is a fantastic interview question and one that is used by hiring managers in all industries throughout the world.

This question is similar to the behavioral question, “explain a time when your work was criticized,” however this question allows you the opportunity to answer directly and tell them your philosophy on taking criticism, working on improvement, and a willingness to grow. The answer to this question should always be “good.” Even if you don’t handle criticism well, try to frame it well or explain how you approach constructive criticism in order to handle it better.

Being able to handle constructive criticism is important in any job. There will be times when your supervisor doesn’t see your vision or your team members don’t like how you handled a particular situation. It’s important for others to be able to communicate with you effectively in order to get the job done well. It’s also to your benefit to accept constructive criticism and work on improving those areas in order to be the best professional you can be.

Tips:

  1. Always express your ability to handle constructive criticism well.
  2. Highlight the positive things that can come from hearing constructive criticism, for example improving your skills and attributes to be a stronger professional.
  3. You can provide an example of a time when you handled constructive criticism well, and the positive outcome that resulted. Just be sure you don’t reveal a criticism you received that could negatively affect your chances of getting the job.

Example Answer:

“I tend to handle constructive criticism very well. I enjoy getting feedback on my work and performance and use constructive criticism to improve myself and become the best professional I can be. When I was first starting out in my career, I used to wear a lot of jewelry as part of my personal style—lots of bangles and large earrings. One day, my supervisor mentioned that I should avoid wearing a lot of jewelry when I go to meet with clients. At first, I didn’t understand why, and then I realized that wearing too much jewelry was making me seem like a recent graduate, rather than a seasoned professional. I started paying more attention to the way I was dressing and portraying the type of image I wanted to the clients.”

© RedStarResume Publications – http://shugert.com.mx/rsr-dev/

Follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/RedStarResume

About the Author:

Amanda Ryan is a Program Development Associate & Senior Resume Writer at RedStarResume. Amanda is a highly skilled resume writer and career expert specializing in international Resume Writing:

Check out our country specific resume writing websites:

USA: http://shugert.com.mx/rsr-dev/

Canada: http://www.redstarresume.ca/

Australia / NZ: http://shugert.com.mx/rsr-dev.au/

Asia: http://www.redstarresume.asia/

India: http://www.redstarresume.in/

UK / Europe http://www.redstarresume.co.uk/

Contact Us today and see how we can help you find success!

Whether it’s on the fly or in the course of a performance review, many of us will no doubt find ourselves on the receiving end of constructive criticism throughout our careers. It’s how we deal with that feedback that sets the stage for success versus failure. With that in mind, here’s how you ought to respond when constructive criticism comes your way — especially if you want to look professional in the process.

1. Breathe before you speak

It’s never easy to take criticism, even if that feedback is designed to be productive in nature. That’s why it pays to take a few deep breaths before responding to your manager. In fact, you might even come out and say something like, “This is a lot of information to take in, and I have questions. Do you mind if I sit here and process things for a minute or two?” This will buy you a little time to compose yourself, even if you have to sit in awkward silence for a few seconds.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

2. Ask questions — but not defensively

The purpose of constructive criticism isn’t to knock your performance but to give you actionable items to improve upon. So if you need further clarification or advice on how to overcome your faults, don’t hesitate to request additional information or more concrete advice. That said, be sure to keep your language and tone inquisitive, not defensive.

Here’s an example: Perhaps your boss sat you down and informed you that you need to do a better job of handling pressure under fire. Your natural response might go something like, “Well, how do you suppose I accomplish that?” But replying in a snarky manner isn’t going to help you, so rather than go that route, try asking, “What specific suggestions do you have for situations where I’m given multiple projects with very close deadlines?” A follow-up like this shows that you’re really just looking for information rather than pushing back.

3. Request a follow-up discussion

It’s not always easy to gather your thoughts on the spot when presented with constructive criticism, nor will you necessarily arrive at every question you have within the 10-minute period following that feedback. Before your meeting with your manager comes to a close, ask for a second sit-down a few days later to address any follow-up questions that come to mind. This will give you an opportunity to better benefit from that criticism, and it’ll show your boss that you’re taking it seriously.

4. Express your gratitude

Difficult as it may be, it’s a wise idea to thank your manager for providing you with feedback — even if it’s not all rosy. Remember, your boss is probably busy, yet has taken the time to offer up criticism designed to ultimately make you better at what you do. Rather than resent that, try to be appreciative — and show that appreciation with some kind parting words.

5. Learn from it

The point of constructive criticism is to give you an opportunity to improve upon your weaknesses and progress your career. So once you’ve received that feedback, take it to heart and make a list of all the ways you’re going to incorporate it in the future.

For example, say your boss points out your tendency to rush through projects and produce documents with errors. Going forward, you might pledge to create a daily or weekly work schedule so that you’re not as pressed for time and therefore less likely to make mistakes. You might also pledge to leave yourself ample time for proofreading or enlist the help of different colleagues to provide that service for you. The point is to identify concrete ways to make changes and commit to them so that your performance improves over time.

Constructive criticism isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so don’t turn it into one. Rather, take it for what it is — an honest assessment of your performance and an opportunity to do even better.

How to Take Constructive Criticism Like a Professional

Let me guess, you don’t like people criticizing you? It doesn’t matter whether it’s your boss, colleagues, or friends, criticisms hurt. The fact is that other people see your flaws better, so learning how to accept criticism is vital if you want to improve at work.

Accepting constructive criticism can be a challenge, but it can also help you improve. (Image Source: Envato Elements)

If you’re like many of us, you don’t know how to accept criticism—even constructive criticism. In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to take constructive criticism well and use it to improve yourself.

Constructive Criticism vs Destructive Criticism

What is constructive criticism anyway? What qualifies as constructive, and is therefore worth paying attention to? The difference lies in the content and delivery of the feedback.

Although both types of criticism can hurt your confidence because of the way they challenge your skills or character, destructive criticisms are mostly personal attacks. Sometimes they’re deliberate, other times they’re just a result of a lack of tact. Whatever the cause, you’ll know that it’s destructive criticism if it only points out your flaws. Constructive criticism includes suggestions on how you can improve.

The Problem With Employee Reviews & Typical Corporate Feedback

Performance reviews are supposed to be a good opportunity to hear what your manager thinks about your work. Historically speaking, research published at Cambridge University Press suggests that it’s more of a paper-pushing ritual mixed in with awkward conversations where both parties are afraid to speak their mind. Many managers rate their employee as either “average” or “above average” to keep the status quo. They do this to:

  • Prevent them from getting demotivated
  • Keep top-performers from getting complacent
  • Evade potentially awkward questions from employees who might ask what they did to deserve such low ratings.

Employees are as much to blame as the system. Even in the face of valid and constructive criticism from a legitimate source (i.e. your manager), employees use different strategies to deflect blame, such as:

  • Criticizing the source or someone else so their flaws look less awful in comparison
  • Deflecting the weight or value of the criticism by playing up their strengths (e.g. “It doesn’t matter that I’m sometimes rude to customers because I sell more than my other teammates”)
  • Discrediting the source of criticism
  • Arguing about the critic’s judgment

But there’s a catch to evading negative feedback like this, writes Robert Nash, Aston University Lecturer and Psychologist, “Failing to reach our goals makes us feel bad.”

So since failure will make you feel bad too, isn’t it better to just face the criticism if it gets you one step closer to your professional goals?

How to Take Constructive Criticism Professionally

1. Take a Step Back From Your First Reaction

Don’t jump at the chance to defend yourself as soon as the person criticizing you stops to draw breath. That just makes you look defensive and unable to handle negative feedback. Giving in to your anger or need to justify yourself also prevents you from taking criticism objectively, so just take a deep breath and follow the other steps below.

Besides, whoever is criticizing you will sense this and as a result, hesitate to continue with what they’re telling you. You might have saved yourself a few seconds of pain, but you also missed out on an opportunity to improve.

2. Be Wary of Facial Expression and Body Language

Try not to roll your eyes, cross your arms, or frown when criticized. Yes, your office is a professional environment, but that doesn’t stop your manager and colleagues from picking up on emotional cues. Negative facial expressions and body language suggest that you’re not interested in what you’re hearing or that you want to end the conversation. Neither are great ideas if you want to hear what others really thought of you.

3. Consider the Source

Criticism from a manager you don’t like could still be legitimate or helpful in the same way that feedback from trusted colleagues could be disingenuous. Always consider the source of the criticism and their motives.

4. Don’t Take It as an Insult

Don’t take it personally. Constructive criticisms are just someone else’s observation of your work and skills in a professional setting—no one is saying you’re a bad person. If they said something to that effect that doesn’t qualify as constructive criticism anymore, so feel free to just ignore it.

But as long as the feedback is about your work, such as the quality of your output or the way you accomplish it, you should take it in good faith that the person’s intention is to help you improve. Accept it graciously.

Try not to cry no matter how painful the criticism is because there’s no going back from that. You’ll feel embarrassed to face that person again, and you might get labeled as “too emotional.” When that happens, there’s a good chance no one in your office will ever be 100% honest about your work again.

5. Figure Out Why You Got Defensive

Now that you’re calm, it’s time to examine why you got defensive or upset in the first place.

What do you think triggered your initial reaction? For some people, it’s pride, for others, it’s just the embarrassment of getting called out. What’s your reason?

If you don’t know what your trigger is, dig deep until you find out. Because your answer to that question is the key to avoiding all the negative emotions that cloud your judgment and by extension delay your growth.

Awareness is crucial in controlling negative emotions. So, once you know what your trigger is you can use it the next time your emotions overrule your logic when someone criticizes you. Tell yourself that whatever you’re feeling is just a gut reaction because of your (pride, embarrassment, fear of rejection, etc.).

6. Listen for Understanding

After you get your emotions in check, it’s time to take control of your racing thoughts. What’s the first thing on your mind when someone criticizes you? It’s probably one of these things:

  • That’s not what I did/said.
  • Easy for him to say, he doesn’t know how hard it is to…
  • Actually, that’s not what you told me to do so…
  • Nobody told me about that, so it’s not my fault.
  • You should have…
  • I did this because…
  • This is the right way to do it because…

You may not be outwardly defending yourself, but you’re not listening closely either. You’re just listening to formulate a reply that trumps your critic’s statement. To avoid this, try to listen to what the person is telling you word for word. Memorize what they say so you can repeat it back to them in your own words. This shifts your brain’s full attention to the other person with the added bonus of confirming that you understand the feedback from the other person’s point-of-view. The following tutorial can help you improve you and your boss communication skills at work:

  • Communication Small Business HR: How to Communicate With Employees Better Andrew Blackman

7. Realize Giving Feedback is Awkward and Not Easy for the Other Person

A lot of managers and certainly the majority of your colleagues aren’t trained to give feedback properly. Even if they were, that doesn’t make it any easier on their part. It sounds weird, but it’s easier to rant than it is to give valid work-related criticism that includes a suggestion for improvement.

Consider the following examples, which do you think is easier to say to someone who made a mistake?

“You’re a lousy video editor”

“The last video you edited looks like a rip-off of our main competitor. Next time, please find more sources of inspiration so your work doesn’t look like a copycat.”

In the heat of the moment, it’s easier to say the first statement. Even when your manager is calm, the prospect of you reacting negatively is enough to make them feel uncomfortable. It’s just that they expect you to remain professional. They also hope you know that they’re required to give you feedback because it’s also their job that’s on the line.

Think where your boss is coming from next time you feel upset about taking criticism. You’re not perfect and neither are they, but the fact that they took time to point out your mistake shows that they care about your career.

How to Use Constructive Criticism to Improve Yourself

Earlier you learned the process of keeping your composure while receiving constructive criticism. Now it’s time learn how to use that feedback for your professional growth. After all, what’s the point of accepting people’s painful words if it won’t benefit you?

1. Stop Viewing Mistakes as Failures

Don’t think of your mistakes as failures, as that might be one reason you get defensive when someone points a mistake out out. Making a mistake means you’re human and that you still have lots to learn about your job. Each mistake is just a lesson to be learned, not a sign that you’re a total failure.

Remember that everyone starts as a beginner and the same people criticizing you got their fair share of painful feedback too. So, just accept that there’s a learning curve in everything, whatever your position is on the corporate ladder.

2. Ask for Specifics

Don’t accept blame for anything you don’t fully understand. Who knows, you might be the one getting criticized, but it may not be your fault at all. While that’s not always the case, it’s never a bad idea to clarify the specifics of the complaint.

Ask exactly what it is you did wrong, what makes it wrong, and how they prefer you to do it next time. You can also ask if this is an isolated incident, or if you’ve committed the same mistake before to see if it’s pattern behavior or just a one-time mishap.

3. Get a Second Opinion

Constructive criticism isn’t limited to the quality or accuracy of your work. Sometimes, it’s about the way you do your job or how you relate to others at the office. In both cases, the criticism will be subjective. For instance, some people might appreciate your honesty, but other people might think you’re rude or tactless. In this situation, it’s best to ask for a second opinion or even multiple opinions.

Seek out the opinion of someone who can give an unbiased opinion of you. If you’ve got time, try asking at least five people so you can get a better consensus of what others think.

4. Define Your Plan

By this time you know whether the criticism has merit and what you can do to improve yourself. Your next step is to create a plan to address the issue so that you can learn from it and not get told off for the same reason in the future.

Creating a plan to address your areas for improvement doesn’t have to be complicated. Follow the steps below:

  • What went wrong? (Mistake)
  • Why did it happen in the first place? (Trigger)
  • Find a way to avoid the trigger.
  • Identify what you should’ve done instead and do it. (Correct action)

5. Follow Through

Send a thank-you email to the person gave you who feedback explaining your plan to avoid the same mistake in the future. Include a meeting request to discuss your improvement if your manager was the one who gave you feedback. This may sound like too much to you, but this is the best way to show that you’re committed to improving yourself.

Learn When to Let Go

Unless it’s a specific work procedure, a company policy, or a matter of common-sense good behavior, you’re not obligated to take all the advice you receive. Remember, constructive criticisms are other people’s observations plus their suggestions on how you can improve. The catch is those suggestions are based on their experience, and there are times when their experience is different from yours. Sometimes, their suggestions might be inapplicable to you, so the best you can do is acknowledge that you’ve got a chance to improve, then find your own way of doing it.

Don’t let the burdens of previous failures weigh you down. Beating yourself up with all the things that you could’ve done better before is a waste of time and energy. You’re better off channeling that energy into learning new things and working on other goals.

5 Tips for Gracefully Accepting Constructive Criticism

September 8, 2015 4 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It’s no secret that most people don’t like having their flaws pointed out to them. But the fact is that other people often see our shortcomings more clearly than we do.

Related: Inspire Performance by Providing Optimum Feedback

And just as sharks need to keep swimming in order to breathe, entrepreneurs need to keep learning and developing both personally and professionally to improve their performance and grow their businesses. That makes feedback, especially the negative kind, an invaluable gift, provided you’re able to accept it gracefully.

Here are five tips to help you make the most of your colleagues’ and clients’ feedback:

1. Don’t take it personally.

Constructive criticism is not an insult or a reflection on who you are as a person. It’s merely someone’s observations about his or her interactions with you in a business context. Whether the person is well-meaning or just being mean-spirited doesn’t really matter. Respond respectfully as though your critic’s intentions are good, and come from a place of gratitude for the information.

After all, you’re smart and savvy enough to determine how valid the feedback is and what to do about it.

2. Ask for specifics.

Many people are just as uncomfortable giving constructive feedback as they are getting it and therefore dance around the issue, trying to be as gentle and polite as possible. That’s fine for easing into the process of sharing personal opinions, but you’ll probably need more details to get to the heart of the matter. Demonstrate with your words and manner that you’re sincerely open to feedback, and people will tell you what you really need to know.

3. Solicit help.

A sure-fire way to show that you’re seriously interested in people’s feedback is to ask their advice about how you can improve your performance. Say something like, “I’ve been thinking about this myself, and really want to do better in the future. Do you have any suggestions for how I can improve?” When you candidly acknowledge your deficiencies and solicit advice, you show your strength, and people may well respond with helpful counsel.

Related: Cultivate These 8 Habits to Achieve Peak Performance in Life and Business

4. Share your progress.

If you respect the person who gave you the constructive criticism, you’ll take the advice seriously and actively work on improving your performance in that area. Share your progress with the individual who shared the feedback and show that you heard his or her concerns and are willing to actively take steps to improve your performance. You can prove this, first, by doing better at whatever was critiqued, but also by updating people on what you’ve done in response to their feedback.

5. Be a feedback mirror.

When someone shares constructive criticism with you, this individual makes himself or herself vulnerable to criticism. That may be why people are so rarely honest about what they really think of others. People know they have their own faults, but may feel exposed having them pointed out. Offer yourself as a partner in self-improvement by telling others that their feedback is valuable and that you are happy to return the favor.

Nobody’s perfect. From time to time, we all need others to let us know when we aren’t measuring up to our potential. So, constructive criticism, negative feedback or whatever you want to call it is essential to everyone’s self-development. Be an agent of change in this area, and you’ll be rewarded with useful information and better business relations.

Related: What Are Performance Reviews Really About?

Here at Thrive, one of our core cultural values is compassionate directness: We’re empowered to speak up, give feedback, and surface problems and constructive criticism immediately. The thinking is that when we share feedback and new ideas as well as tension points with compassion, empathy and understanding, the whole company benefits and we can course-correct and grow as individuals. And it’s also how many of our best ideas come to light.

Receiving feedback without becoming defensive is a skill that can help you win in work and in life. While you might not have control over the feedback you hear, you do have control over how you react. So we asked members of the Thrive Global community how they’ve learned to receive constructive criticism gracefully — and use it to boost their success.

Use feedback as a trigger for change

“I’ve always found criticism hard to give and hard to take, which was probably holding me back. My instinct when receiving criticism, however helpful, was to get defensive. Three years ago, I joined a CEO peer-to-peer mentoring group and one of the things we learned very early on was how to give feedback in a way that inspired progress, how to use it as a trigger for change, and how to create a plan to make that happen. Because we meet monthly, we report on its impact at the next meeting, and over time, it’s become clear that the attitude of acting on it, rather than brushing it away, causes phenomenal improvements in our companies, careers and family lives.”

—Erika Clegg, agency co-founder, England

Look at it objectively

“Constructive criticism has been key to my success in becoming a physician and has helped me continue become the best doctor for my patients. It can be tough to hear not-so-positive feedback sometimes, but I’ve tried to look at it objectively, rather than reacting emotionally, to figure out whether the feedback has validity and how I can learn. Visualize the situation from a bird’s eye view, rather than a first-person narrator perspective.”

— Anna M. Laucis, resident physician, Ann Arbor, MI

Say thank you

“I’ve learned to take constructive (and negative) criticism by always and immediately thanking the person for their help. Then, I take a few moments to process. At first, this seemed a little inauthentic, but over time, it’s changed the way I feel about criticism. Instead of immediately responding defensively, I come from a place of conciliation and gratitude. Then I think about what was said and try to find something that might be helpful to me. I acknowledge the beneficial input and say how much I appreciate it, which may spark more dialogue. It always makes me think about about what people are saying, rather than how I feel about it. This has given me some amazing ideas that I never would have thought of own my own. It’s a process, but ‘thank you for your thoughts’ or ‘I really appreciate you telling me this’ are truly magic words. On the other hand, when I need to deliver criticism, I’ve learned to take all emotional judgment out of it.”

—Kathy K. Johnson, executive director, Cheboygan, MI

Look forward, not back

“When I was told that I needed to be more sensitive about what I say at work, it was hard to swallow. I wasted time thinking about what I had said until I realized that this wouldn’t actually do anything. So I took action and was more careful when choosing my words. Make your changes now so that your change take you forward.”

—Christian J. Farber, writer and marketer, NJ

Turn to your “go-to” people

“As an entrepreneur, speaker, and writer, the online comments and feedback flood in almost daily. Getting bad review of my book, hearing a hurtful comment, or getting honest feedback that I wasn’t their cup of tea are things that used to ruin me. But I realized that the more content I put out, the further it spreads, and the more feedback I’ll get. So I have a list of three go-to people. If I’m speaking or writing, I always go to them for honest feedback because their opinion matters. It’s not coming from someone, as Brené Brown says, ‘in the cheap seats,’ but someone who is on the same path as me and will provide constructive, growth-oriented feedback. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and not everyone will like your work (and that’s ok), but this can’t stop you from continuing to do what you do!”

—Lisa Pezik, business strategist and content expert, Ontario, Canada

Reframe it as a gift

“Realizing that constructive criticism is a gift helped me learn to receive it better. For example, my CEO noted several years ago that I was assuming the burdens of others at the detriment of myself. At first, it stung, as I saw myself as a ‘corporate superhero’ protecting others. Then, I realized that he was right: swooping in to save the day prevented people from learning how to advocate for themselves. Acting on that feedback helped me create more balance while promoting team growth.”

—Shira Miller, chief communications officer, Atlanta, GA

See it as a consequence of doing something that matters

“I’ve learned to cope with feedback by accepting that I will always take things personally. And rather than fight that battle, I choose to embrace this new paradigm: that I’ll be knocked down and must build myself up, over and over again. One might say that’s an insane contract to sign, but I say it’s the consequence of doing something that really matters to you.”

—Julia Djeke, writer and yoga teacher, New York, NY

Approach it with mindfulness

“The older I’ve gotten, the more mindful I’ve become. This has taken practice, but the bonus skills that come with a fully-present mind are acceptance of what is without being triggered, and increased curiosity, wonder, and inquiry. These character strengths have helped me be more open and bear witness to what others say in a more kind and neutral way.”

—Lisa Cypers Kamen, optimal lifestyle management expert, Los Angeles, CA

Focus on the message, not the messenger or delivery

“It helps me to focus on the message, rather than the messenger or the delivery. Even in the most inarticulate deliveries or messengers, there may be a nugget of truth I can learn from.”

—Stacy Cassio, CEO, Charlotte, NC

Know that it will make you better

“Even though I’m a business owner, I dedicate myself to continuing my education — this involves fitness workshops and seminars. Sometimes, the coaching critique is very harsh. In the beginning, I felt like I was the worst coach ever. But then I realized that the more criticism I received, the better I would become, and the more successful my business would be. I just had to keep telling myself, ‘this will only make you better.’

—Jessica Murden, business owner, Lodi, NJ

Have an open discussion if you’re not on the same page

“Staying objective, grounded, and acknowledging my own emotions are the key factors I rely on when receiving any feedback. The positive kind is easy to accept, but the negative or constructive kinds take a lot more effort to process. If there’s any truth to the feedback, I accept it and focus on how to improve myself. If I don’t quite agree with it, I’ll try to have an open discussion. But sometimes, I have to respectfully disagree.”

—Cynthia Leung, pharmacist, Kingston, Canada

Use this 4-step process to make it a win-win

“First, I use my breath to calm my nervous system. I take a long breath in, then a long breath out. Second, I consider whether I want to be or stay offended. Third, I ask if there’s anything to genuinely learn from the feedback. Usually, there is. Fourth, without passing judgment or shaming myself, I thank the person for the course adjustment and for being my teacher. This last step is the most important one because it helps me appreciate that the other person is coming from a good place. They, in turn, feel good about offering useful feedback. It’s a win-win.”

—Maria Baltazzi, PhD, MFA, happiness mentor and television producer, Los Angeles, CA

Tap into your curiosity

“Before you get defensive, be curious! When I find myself reacting strongly to criticism, I step back and get really curious about the ideas and intentions behind the comments — even my own knee-jerk reaction. It opens my mind and helps me build on the feedback to create value.”

—Diana David, board director, Hong Kong, China

Follow us here and subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.

Accepting positive and negative criticism

No one wants to hear that they’ve made a mistake or that they’re not living up to their potential at work, but dealing with criticism is part of being a professional. You’re not infallible, and thinking that you’re incapable of making mistakes will only hurt you, your job performance, and your reputation. In contrast, accepting constructive criticism reveals an employee who listens, strives to improve, and has enough humility to recognize the areas that need a bit of spit and polish.

Although some people are naturally open to criticism, whether it’s positive or negative, others don’t know how to take it. Don’t worry if you’re in that boat. Dealing with criticism is something you can learn. It’s an essential skill unless it’s your aim to come off as a stubborn know-it-all of an employee who gets angry rather than listen to the advice of your colleagues and leaders.

Step back from your first reaction

Don’t jump to defend yourself or get angry the moment someone brings a piece of constructive criticism to you. That only makes you look bad because it seems as if you can’t handle any kind of criticism. Furthermore, anger stops you from thinking and learning. The second you get heated because a coworker or manager says you made a mistake or need to improve a particular area, that’s the moment you’ve lost the plot. You’ll never learn or grow if you give in to your first instinct to get angry or justify your actions. Take a breath and wait it out.

Figure out why you’re defensive

Why are you so defensive? Why do you feel this way rather than simply dealing with positive and negative criticism? Most often, people react defensively to advice or lectures about their mistakes because of pride. To some, being called out is embarrassing. It makes them feel ashamed or less valuable. You might have trouble admitting that you’re wrong, or maybe there’s something deeper going on in your mind. It’s worth exploring if you can’t get a handle on it. A defensive attitude impedes growth, making it worth your while to discover why your pride makes dealing with criticism so difficult.

Stop viewing mistakes as failures

Your mistakes aren’t failures. Just because there are areas that need improvement, that does not mean that you aren’t successful or that you’re bad at your job. Viewing mistakes as failures is another reason you might act defensively in response to critical and constructive feedback. However, each misstep you take is a lesson. You can’t improve if you don’t know where you need improvement. No one goes into any job knowing all the details or knowing how to do everything correctly. Give yourself time and space to learn and grow. You don’t stop discovering new things just because you’re an adult.

Realize that you can’t improve without critique

What would you rather have your managers do? In lieu of accepting positive and negative criticism, would you rather continue making the same mistakes or turning in sub-par work? Without constructive feedback, you won’t get better.

What you do is irrelevant—if you’re a sales manager, an editor, or a travel agent, you’ll stagnate in your job unless you open yourself up to the opinions and advice of your superiors and colleagues. You aren’t weak or a failure for accepting criticism. You’re actually taking steps to become an all-star employee. Your bosses will see that you take their criticism and apply it immediately to your work, which reflects well on you.

Consider the source

Not all criticism is constructive or even conducive. You always have to consider the source. You can’t discount advice just because it comes from someone you don’t like. A manager or supervisor with whom you don’t get along can still offer helpful advice. However, it’s not unheard of for coworkers or colleagues who don’t have your best interest at heart to offer criticism that’s meant to harm you rather than help you. Don’t feel that you have to accept a lecture from someone who finds fault with everything you do or does a poor job on their own.

Learn the difference between constructive and destructive criticism

You’re under no obligation to blindly accept all criticism. Just as you consider who’s offering the critique, you also need to think about where the criticism comes from, particularly if it’s coming from a positive or negative place. It’s a sad but true fact that people sometimes bring down others, especially in a work environment. If a piece of critique seems spiteful, vindictive, or far-fetched, trust your instincts and ask for a second opinion. You can receive advice that’s designed to bring you down rather than improve your performance, so don’t hesitate to ask other managers and leaders for their opinions.

Listen to what’s said

Instead of being defensive, be mindful and listen to what your coworker or supervisor says. Don’t let your emotions get in the way of the message. In dealing with criticism, once you open up to it, you frequently discover easier or more efficient ways to perform your tasks at work. Moreover, the advice you receive from your boss or leader can reveal your strengths and weaknesses as an employee, but you won’t learn those lessons if you refuse to let yourself hear them. It’s unlikely that your superiors will want to continue working with someone who shuts down their critiques.

Stop trying to justify yourself

Jumping to explain yourself makes you seem guilty, unwilling to listen, and stubborn. It’s off-putting and suggests that you don’t have the qualities of a valuable employee. Ask yourself why your first instinct is to justify listing your potential customer leads in the wrong format or failing to fill out a report properly. Are there any justifications for your mistake, or are you just allowing your pride to speak up instead of admitting that you aren’t perfect? Stop explaining away your mistakes and own up to them instead. You’ll learn more, and your employer will have more respect for you.

Deconstruct your feedback with questions

To show that you’re not only listening but also dealing with criticism in a constructive, worthwhile manner, talk to your boss about the situations she or he addresses. Ask for specific examples regarding your mistakes and performance. Go a step further and ask for advice about how to correctly perform the task. If you have issues with accomplishing a job the way your boss expects you to do it, then be honest and tell your supervisor how and why you’re having problems. Being truthful and taking a proactive approach will impress your superiors.

Look for help

You might need outside help. That’s fine—admirable, in fact. Needing help does not make you a failure, nor does it make you weak. It’s time to ditch that mindset or else you’ll never reach the heights of success you dream about. Talk to colleagues who excel in the areas that give you problems. Find a work mentor who can give you tips, look over your work, and steer you in the right direction. Your bosses will take notice. Everyone loves the employees who take the bull by the horns and address their issues themselves.

Ask for a follow-up

The most professional and impressive way of dealing with criticism is to use it. After receiving your critique, put the advice you received into practice, then ask for a follow-up review to discuss your progress. Doing this shows your employer that you’re open to feedback and that you put it into practice immediately. That’s one way to build a sterling reputation in your company. You may not always agree with the changes you make, but if they please your manager, improve your performance, and make you look good, then they’re worth it.

Stop taking it personally

Unless it’s destructive criticism coming from a negative person or place, critique isn’t personal. You’re not being singled out by management for no reason. Your superiors simply saw a deficit in your performance, your leadership style, or a technique that you use. That doesn’t mean that you’re terrible at everything you do or that your work record is full of mistakes. It just means there are a few things you need to improve.

You won’t get by in any professional environment unless you’re open to accepting positive and negative criticism. If you’re willing to accept praise, then you have to listen to your weaknesses.

FILED UNDER FLEXIBILITY PERSONAL GROWTH Interested in workspace? Get in touch.

I’ve always envied people who can graciously accept constructive criticism.

It seems I was not born with that trait, and throughout my career I’ve struggled with receiving feedback, even when it was entirely accurate. The moment I hear the words, my heartbeat quickens and my mind begins to race—first in search of an explanation for the assault on my person and then for a retort to rationalize whatever actions are in question.

And I’m not alone.

Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment, many of us react with defensiveness and anger or—even worse—attack the person giving feedback. But the truth is, we need to get over it. We know there’s value in constructive criticism—how else would we identify weaknesses only help us maintain relationships and be more successful in everything we do.

So how do you learn to back off the defensive? The next time you receive constructive criticism from your manager or a peer, use this six-step process to handle the encounter with tact and grace.

1. Stop Your First Reaction

At the first sign of criticism, before you do anything—stop. Really. Try not to react at all! You’ll 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 in that moment, you can halt a dismissive facial expression or reactive quip and remind yourself to stay calm.

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. Listen for Understanding

You’ve avoided your typical reaction, your brain is working, and you’ve recalled all the benefits of feedback—high-five! Now, you’re ready to engage in a productive dialogue as your competent, thoughtful self (as opposed to your combative, Mean Girls self).

As the person shares feedback with you, listen closely. Allow the person to share their complete thoughts, without interruption. When they’re done, repeat back what you heard. For example, “I hear you saying that you want me to provide more detailed weekly reports, is that right?”

At this point, avoid analyzing or questioning the person’s assessment; instead, just focus on understanding his or her comments and perspective. And give the benefit of the doubt here—hey, it’s difficult to give feedback to another person. Recognize that the person giving you feedback may be nervous or may not express their ideas perfectly.

4. 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.

5. Ask Questions to Deconstruct the Feedback

Now it’s time to process the feedback—you’ll probably want to get more clarity at this point and share your perspective. Avoid engaging in a debate; instead, ask questions to get to the root of the actual issues being raised and possible solutions for addressing them.

For example, if a colleague tells you that you got a little heated in a meeting, here are a few ways to deconstruct the feedback:

  • Seek specific examples to help you understand the issue: “I was a little frustrated, but can you share when in the meeting you thought I got heated?”

  • Acknowledge the feedback that is not in dispute: “You’re right that I did cut him off while he was talking, and I later apologized for that.”

  • Try to understand whether this is an isolated issue (e.g., a mistake you made once): “Have you noticed me getting heated in other meetings?”

  • Look for concrete solutions to address the feedback: “I’d love to hear your ideas on how I might handle this differently in the future.”

6. Request Time to Follow Up

Hopefully, by this point in the conversation, you can agree on the issues that were raised. Once you articulate what you will do going forward, and thank the person again for the feedback, you can close the conversation and move on.

That said, if it’s a larger issue, or something presented by your boss, you may want to ask for a follow-up meeting to ask more questions and get agreement on next steps. And that’s OK—it’ll give you time to process the feedback, seek advice from others, and think about solutions.

Constructive criticism is often the only way we learn about our weaknesses—without it we can’t improve. When we’re defensive, instead of accepting and gracious, we run the risk of missing out on this important insight. Remember, feedback’s not easy to give and it’s certainly not easy to receive, but it’ll help us now and in the long run.

Criticism hurts. It can come from a superior at work or from a perfect stranger with an iPhone and a loud opinion. It can be about your work, your writing, your looks, your personality. It can ruin a whole day and topple self-esteem.

It’s easy to be defensive when on the receiving end of such criticism. When we fear the judgment of others, both hurtful words and helpful critiques alike can seem like bitter condemnation.

I spent the better part of my life wholly concerned with the opinions of others. The fear of judgment and disapproval was crippling. What was I so afraid of? Words can be hurtful, yes, but they are just words. I look back now at the time spent fretting over what others thought of me and see it as time wasted.

It’s impossible to control what a person will say, but it is possible to be in control of the way you internalize, process, and react to criticism.

1. Stay Calm

Step back from the situation. Your first instinct might be to immediately respond or defend yourself, but resist the urge; delay your response until you’ve gathered your thoughts. By allowing your emotions to run their course before addressing the situation, you prevent yourself from acting defensively or saying something you may regret later. If you receive a critical email or blog comment, allow yourself at least an hour before you respond. If the criticism occurs in person, respond graciously with a polite but generic response (i.e. “I appreciate the input! It gives me something to think about.”). Address the issue again after you’ve had a bit of time (and space) to think on it.

2. Consider the Source and the Value of the Criticism

There are two types of criticism: constructive and destructive. Constructive criticism comes from a positive place and is meant to help you better yourself. Destructive criticism is meant only to tear you down. It can be harder than you might think to discern between the two: Not all constructive criticism is delivered gently and not all destructive criticism is delivered harshly. Set aside the tone and focus on what is actually being said: is there something to be learned from the critique or are they just useless, hurtful words?

Another tip to help you discern the helpful from the hurtful? Consider the source of the criticism. Is it coming from a faceless, nameless stranger on the Internet? A teacher or a co-worker who respects you? Take the time to ask yourself whether or not the opinion of the person criticizing you is worth worrying about. Once you’ve identified criticism as destructive rather than constructive, it becomes easier to forget about it and continue going about your business of being awesome.

3. Acknowledge That You Might Be Wrong

This is perhaps the most crucial and most difficult step for most of us. If you’ve identified criticism as constructive, allow yourself to acknowledge that the person offering said criticism, no matter how harsh or poorly worded, might just have a point. It’s good to be confident in yourself and your abilities, but it’s also important to accept that there will always be someone who knows more than you do on one subject or another. If you stay on the defensive, you rob yourself of valuable opportunities for growth.

4. Understand That You Can’t Please Everybody

That being said, you might just take time to think about it and find that you still disagree with the criticism offered. If that is the case, stick to your guns and politely continue to go about doing what you’re doing. It is impossible to please everybody, and at one point or another you’ll need to decide what feels right to you and go with it. I believe it was an ancient Greek philosopher who once penned the wise words “The haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate…” and let me tell you, even in the year 300 B.C. that guy was on point.

5. Respond With Grace

Destructive criticism never warrants a response. Quickly click “delete” on hateful emails that benefit no one and wash your hands of that negativity. The same can be said for in-person interactions. Constructive criticism, however, should be addressed respectfully once you’re ready to do so. Thank the person for their input and then agree or disagree as you see fit, taking the time to politely explain your reasoning, if necessary. You have the power to turn these critiques into learning experiences or opportunities for valuable discussion…use it!

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *