Co-authored by Carly Alaimo, Content Manager at Avelist
Hereâ€™s the thing: most of us werenâ€™t groomed to gracefully handle personal or professional criticism. Itâ€™s hard to walk away from a less than stellar performance review at work and not think you totally suck or that your boss has it out for you. Your behavior is a large part of your identity, so naturally, when someone tells you to change, their small suggestion can feel like a massive personal attack. And yeah, criticism can be tricky: how do you know this person wants you to succeed and isnâ€™t just being a jerk? Itâ€™s impossible to know whether criticism is coming from a sincere place or not, but it is possible to process the information in a healthy, logical way. Introducing a few helpful checkpoints to keep in mind when receiving criticism so you donâ€™t become a paranoid zombie:
1. Donâ€™t be defensive. Slipping into attack mode is never a good thing when someone is taking the time to give you an assessment. Arguing will almost always make you look unreceptive and contentious, and might end up proving many of the criticâ€™s points. Instead of giving into the initial urge to lash out, take a breath, acknowledge their thoughts, and ask some productive questions, such as: â€œI appreciate you bringing this to my attention. Can you point to some specific instances where Iâ€™ve demonstrated a lack of communication? How could I have handled it differently? Going forward, how can I approach communicating with my team in a more effective way?â€ Asking open-ended questions makes you appear cooperative, flexible, and open-minded. Even if you donâ€™t entirely agree with them, this is certainly a more respectful, mature method of receiving a piece of criticism than immediately disagreeing.
2. Donâ€™t say â€œI knowâ€. Never say â€œI knowâ€ in response to criticism. You obviously donâ€™t. Hearing this phrase will instantly put your critic on the defensive and turn what could have been a productive, civil dialogue into an argument. If you know (ha!) this is a habit of yours, try replacing it with a more positive phrase like, â€œI seeâ€â€¦sounds better, right? Equally satisfying for both parties.
3. Wait, wait â€“ donâ€™t get paranoid. Feeling like everyone is against you when youâ€™re being criticized is sooooo normal. In your head, you probably FEEL like the critic thinks youâ€™re either emotionally or professionally incompetent. But in reality, theyâ€™re offering an opinion because they want you to stick around and improve. Your boss isnâ€™t going to talk with you about polishing your email correspondence with a client if she doesnâ€™t believe you can. If you were really sucking at your job, sheâ€™d find someone else to do it. This same idea can be applied to hearing criticism from a loved one or a friend; if they truly disliked you or didnâ€™t want you around, they wouldnâ€™t be around you. Instead of getting discouraged or angry, appreciate that your family member or friend feels comfortable enough to communicate their issues, and trusts youâ€™ll listen and not judge them for bringing it up. Itâ€™s all out of love.
4. Donâ€™t apologize. DO change your ways. Saying youâ€™re sorry is unnecessary unless the situation absolutely calls for an apology (like if youâ€™ve hurt someoneâ€™s feelings). If your boss suggests that you start proofreading your reports before sending them out because the last few have had multiple grammar mistakes, the knee-jerk reaction is to say youâ€™re sorry. When it comes to discussing points of improvement, especially in the workplace, â€œIâ€™m sorryâ€ usually falls flat and makes you seem indecisive and unconfident. Try replacing â€œIâ€™m sorryâ€ with a stronger response, such as: â€œOf course, I will make that changeâ€. A promise of proactivity will help you seem accountable and guess what? You still sound polite.
5. Donâ€™t be so hard on yourself. Criticism is a part of life â€” youâ€™re going to get it at some point from somewhere, whether itâ€™s at work or at home. Remember that no one is perfect. If a person is asking you to change, they are investing in you, and itâ€™s because youâ€™re valuable to them in some way. Even though itâ€™s difficult sometimes, know your worth and try to not to sweat the critics. Youâ€™ve got better things to do.