Feedback and criticism are not always easy to take. They can be seen as attacks on our way of working or a public revelation of how incompetent we always secretly felt we were. Whether we like it or not, though, we’re always going to face feedback from somewhere as we progress professionally, as any time we master one area, the goalposts move and we have to reach new heights.
With that in mind, there’s nothing that can be done other than learning how to take criticism like a champ. Here are some ways to do just that.
How to Take Criticism and Make it a Win
Reframe it as a positive
The automatic conception of criticism in the mind is that it’s something negative. However, the reality in most situations is that it’s actually a good thing. Rather than continuing down a route that wasn’t getting the right results, we’ve been shown the error of our ways and can change and adapt to become better.
Criticism can really come down to being a matter of perspective on communication in the workplace. If we perceive it as being negative, then that’s what it will be, but if we reframe it as an opportunity to learn and improve, then it actually becomes something to be embraced.
Trust the criticizer
There are different types of people who criticize and reasons why they do it, but for the sake of this example we’ll break them down into two groups. One group has found a shortcut between their emotions and verbalization. That means their criticism comes sharp and often but is rarely constructive, e.g., “This article is awful, I don’t know what you thought you were doing.”
The second group realizes that their emotions are valid, but the moment of criticism can also be used for improvement, e.g., “I’m not fully behind this article, it should have a more personal voice and more statistical support for the central thesis.”
While both groups have expressed their displeasure, only the second one actually wants to help you to improve (though it still might sting). When it comes to communication in the workplace, if the people criticizing you are being constructive, then this is a positive, and you should work with them to achieve what they’re looking for. Trust them that they are doing it for the betterment of you and the team.
If, on the other hand, the criticizer is not being constructive, you have a bit more of a challenge on your plate. You may need to do more heavy-lifting to get to the heart of the criticism, often by asking the criticizer to be more specific so you can figure out what needs to be improved.
Listen to what’s being said
A natural self-defense mechanism we can all have with criticism, no matter where it comes from, is to spend the time being criticized thinking up reasons why the other person is wrong. Anyway, they’re not perfect themselves… While this might feed our ego, in a professional setting (or really in any setting), it doesn’t help solve the problem.
While receiving criticism, be sure to listen carefully and, if necessary, take notes. A colleague or superior you respect is taking the time to give you feedback on your performance, and whether you like what you’re hearing or not, that information is valuable. Take the time, manage your breathing and listen. What you hear could lead to great positive change.
Ask for it yourself to set the dynamics
Often criticism can feel like an attack, especially coming from a superior. By approaching the situation head on and requesting feedback and criticism yourself, you are maintaining an element of control in the dynamic. Rather than being a passive receiver of a performance review, you are actively seeking ways to improve in your job. Though the result may be the same, approaching it from a position of confidence and control will help you see your own strength to handle it.
Make it a habit
The logic goes that the more of something you do, the better you get at it. While that won’t always be true, when it comes to taking criticism, it can certainly help to take the sting out of it. Presuming that it’s not constant, unconstructive criticism (see Tip 1) receiving regular feedback gives you a reflective point to measure your progress from. Wanting to get better also means knowing in which direction we have to improve.
Constructive criticism is part of the bedrock of good communication in the workplace. For more ways to strengthen team relationships on your projects, check out Clarizen’s suite of project management tools designed for effective leadership and collaboration.