Dealing with criticism

May 30, 2018 by Hana Woolerson

Dealing with criticism

Criticism, even of the constructive variety, can be a bitter pill to swallow. But the fact is, you won’t go through life without encountering it. It’s worth having a few tools under your belt so you don’t end up a shouty, defensive, red-faced mess when you do.

And let’s face it, we all have areas we can work on – hearing other people’s opinions can help improve your relationships, workplace skills and academic performance.

  1. Stop your first reaction.
    At the first sign of criticism, either constructive or unjust, don’t react. Just stop. In that moment, you can prevent a defensive response or a dismissive facial expression and remind yourself to stay calm.
  1. Listen.
    Really listen. If you’re anything like me, straight away you’ll start replaying the scenario in your mind, trying to remember what was said and how to convince the person they have you all wrong. Instead, listen to what is being said.
  1. Remember the benefit of getting feedback.
    Doesn’t feedback sound so much nicer than criticism? Let’s go with feedback, it’ll make us feel better. Take a few seconds to remind yourself of the benefits of receiving feedback – to improve your skills, work product and relationships.
    It can be hard to receive feedback from a co-worker rather than a manager – don’t bristle if a peer gives you feedback, it can still be valuable.
  1. Say thank you.
    This one is hard. Swallow that pride and before you say anything else, start with thank you. Something like “I appreciate you taking the time to talk about this with me”. It doesn’t mean you are agreeing with the assessment, but it sets the tone for further conversation.
  1. Ask questions.
    Avoid engaging in a debate. Ask for specific examples to help you understand the issue, try to understand if it’s is an isolated issue and look for solutions to address the feedback.
  1. Request time to follow up.
    Hopefully you can resolve the issue in the conversation, thank the person and move on. But if the issue is larger or if you are too upset to talk it through calmly, ask for a follow-up meeting to ask more questions and discuss next steps.

So there we are…not too awful, right? Ok so it’s pretty hard but let’s file it under ‘character building’ and move on.

For more tips on receiving feedback and managing conflict, check out our Graduate Gateway workshop series coming up next month.

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