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.
7 Steps To Taking Constructive Criticism Like a Champ
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.
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.