As a human resources consultant, I frequently teach managers how to deliver constructive feedback to employees. However, some people have a hard time accepting anything negative from their manager, no matter how well it is presented. So why do some people have trouble accepting criticism?
When many of us receive criticism, our first reaction is to try to defend ourselves and even to lash back. Often, we don't hear the real message. This is a problem! We may miss an opportunity to see ourselves differently and learn something important about ourselves in the process.
Instead, we need to try to focus on how we can learn from criticism and grow in a positive way.
How can we do this? These seven tips can help you learn to take criticism like a champ.
1. Take a Deep Breath
When you hear criticism, it can be a shock. Your blood pressure goes up, and you want to lash back. Science shows that our brains don't think well under stress.
Instead of responding instantly, you need to take 3-5 seconds before you react. Take a few breaths and think before you react. Try to rise above your emotions, and respond in a calm and positive manner.
2. Listen Closely
Carefully dissect what is being said. Even if you don't agree with the criticism, the person you're talking to is sending you a signal. What are they really saying?
Realize that others may see something that you don't see. Be open to the fact that others may be right, and use that possibility to evaluate yourself. If you ignore critical comments, you're apt to repeat the same mistakes. Make sure you understand what they are saying.
3. Find the Facts
Ask yourself, "Where is the truth in this criticism?" Try not to get defensive, but ask yourself what you can learn. When faced with criticism, most people focus on the negative part of the feedback and ignore the rest. This doesn't solve any problems because you don't learn anything.
When you can accept parts of the criticism, you become open to learning. You don't have to agree with everything—even agreeing with one small aspect of the criticism will create an atmosphere of teamwork. Then you can shift your focus to how you'll work together to solve a problem. This, in turn, will lessen your feelings of being attacked.
4. Acknowledge the Speaker’s Point Of View
As you listen, you may begin to disagree inwardly and eagerly await your chance to respond. However, try to put yourself in the speaker’s shoes. Repeat back your interpretation of what you've heard. Once there is understanding, you may say “I appreciate your honesty.”
5. Don’t Hold a Grudge
If you stay upset at the person who gave the criticism, it will adversely affect your relationship, which could adversely affect your job.
6. Accept That You Are Not Perfect
No one is perfect—we all make mistakes. The most important thing when we make a mistake is that we learn from it.
7. Don't Take it Personally
This is easier said than done. However, if someone has criticism for you, remind yourself that it doesn't necessarily mean she/he doesn't like you. It doesn't mean that you're not good enough.
In summary, accepting criticism can be very difficult. However, it is a critical skill we all need to learn. It helps us learn about ourselves so we can work with others effectively. It also provides an important opportunity for us to grow as people and professionals.
By Susan Looney, SVP Human Resources, Credit Union Resources, Inc.