handling criticism like a pro

No one in the history of performance reviews ever said, “Please give me your worst possible criticism about my ability to do my job and don’t hold back…it’s okay – I can take it.”

In reality, performance reviews, feedback and criticism are the fiber that holds companies and cultures together. That is of course when it’s constructive, but what happens if you don’t know how to receive it? Successful people recognize this important skill set and know how to navigate these types of exchanges with both poise and professionalism. Here are nine ways to take criticism like a rockstar:

  1. Ask clarifying questions.
    Successful people avoid engaging in hostile confrontation; instead, ask clarifying questions to get to the root of the actual issues being raised with a focus on potential solutions for addressing them. Get curious and ask questions to clarify the content and context. By doing so, you will engage your critic and empower your own learning and development in the process.
  2. Accentuate the positive.
    Successful people recognize that although it may be tough, ideally the person providing them the critique is looking to make them better by pointing out areas of behavior that may be off target. Look (and listen) for the silver lining in what’s being said as that is where the true gold lies for personal and professional growth.
  3. Take notes.
    Successful people realize that in the moment, being present and listening is only part of the recipe for success. The other piece lies in taking notes and writing down specific points of feedback that may or may not sit well with them. Don’t be afraid to take notes during the conversation – by doing so, you will not only show the individual you are taking them seriously, but it will arm you with real time commentary to review (and follow up with) at a later time.
  4. Be humble.
    Successful people remain humble and avoid being arrogant in making someone wrong just because they’re criticizing you. They realize that contrary to their own personal beliefs, they are always open and willing to grow. Do what’s necessary to check your ego and arrogance at the door – it will only suck up the space and distract you from being present.
  5. Focus on content not the context.
    Successful people understand that actively listening to other people is skill set that can be incredibly valuable when speaking to others. As a result, they intentionally focus on the content and messaging versus the emotional component or context in which it’s being delivered. Be mindful of where your thoughts travel and bring your focus back to the present moment so you can allow for better absorption and potential in understanding how to implement the commentary being addressed.
  6. Listen openly and actively.
    Successful people develop ways to set their ego aside so it doesn’t hijack the conversation and defer them to a defensive mindset. They understand that by letting their ego take control, the potential to derail the conversation and interrupt the person criticizing will end in a poor exchange. Resist the urge to jump in and cut off the person criticizing you. Place your full attention on the person speaking and wait until they’ve finished speaking to respond.
  7. Take it like a pro.
    Successful people are open, willing and able to admit their wrongs and shortcomings. Their ability to take criticism as a means to better themselves is what drives them to become more successful. In the end, if you believe there is truth to what’s being said, acknowledge it – take action if necessary but move on.
  8. Schedule a follow up.
    Successful people realize that it’s impossible to listen, process and retain 100% of the criticism at one time. Through this understanding, they are confident in scheduling a follow up meeting to review and clarify any outstanding items as well as address any specific action steps needed to take on their part. By doing this, you will show them that you are engaged, committed and taking this conversation seriously.
  9. Exit graciously.
    Successful people know that they don’t have to agree with all the commentary to graciously and sincerely acknowledge the other person. They understand what’s at stake here and make sure they exit the conversation professionally with their head held high. Take a deep breath in, hold for a moment – exhale and thank the other person for this valuable exchange.


Final thoughts:
As someone who writes on Linkedin each week, I open myself up to public criticism and know first hand how easy it is to be triggered by other peoples commentary. I also recognize that “constructive” criticism is often the only way we learn about our weaknesses. When you are defensive, arrogant or driven by your ego – you run the risk of missing out on the chance to learn and grow. Giving or receiving feedback is typically not high on people’s list of things to do but when delivered and received effectively – it can be a recipe for success.

The floor is yours: What’s your success tip for receiving criticism?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership,

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