When Confronted With Criticism You Don’t Really Want To Hear, What Should You Do?

CriticismIt’s that time of the year where I need to carry out appraisals for my team members. This is by far one of the hardest parts of my job responsibilities! Do I hear you ask “Why” ?

Just like clay is molded in to pottery, we are all shaped by the feedback we receive from those around us. The way a person perceives criticism, will have a powerful impact on their future reactions and how they feel about themselves.

So, how you keep your pride and career intact, when you are getting a dose of criticism you’d rather not hear?

1. Listen (Withhold Immediate Reaction!)

If you’re like most people, you won’t like to be criticized! You might feel you are not being appreciated. You might feel that it’s a blow to the ego. Your natural reaction might be to defend yourself or lash back.

This is exactly what I thought….when I initially started my career. I suppose I was lucky I had good mentors, who persistently showered me with constructive feedback. As time went by, I began to realize what Randy Pausch said in his bestselling book The Last Lecture
And when it was all over, one of the other assistant coaches came over and said, yeah, Coach Graham rode you pretty hard, didn't he? I said, yeah. He said, that's a good thing. He said, when you're screwing up and nobody's saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up. And that's a lesson that stuck with me my whole life: when you see yourself doing something badly and nobody's bothering to tell you anymore, that's a very bad place to be. Your critics are your ones telling you they still love you and care.

2. Identify The Intent Of Criticism

People will always have opinions about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. And yes, it sometimes stings, in unbearable ways.

The question you need to ask yourself “WHY is this person criticizing me?”
Is it to prove they are right?
Is it because they are annoyed/angry with you?
Or are they criticizing your actions? Do they really have your best interest, in grooming you to be better?

Criticism can be a powerful tool when used with the intent of helping, improvement, or offering solutions. It’s helpful when someone – in a friendly manner – offers an honest opinion about you that fosters improvement.

3. Clarify

Does what is being said, make sense to you?
Is there a mismatch of expectations? What you expect, and what they expect?
Can you recall situations that might align with the criticism? If you are confused or unclear, ask for examples.

4. Assess The Criticism

Can you acknowledge the criticism and except your imperfections? Do you disagree? If you disagree, in a calm manner state your reasons and work with the other party.

How useful is the criticism? Something you were aware of? Something you never realized before?
What's the extent of impact? Major, minor, good to have, negligible etc

5. Figure Out The Kind Of Support You Will Need, To Improve

Can the person giving you negative feedback, help you get on track?
Can you manage to improve on your own?
Do you need training in certain areas?

6. Make An Action Plan

Once you figure out the kind of support you need, put together a plan of action. Set goals for the time period and make sure to follow through. Also, make a note of how progress can be measured.

7. Life Must Go On

Usually, when you are criticized, self doubt seeks in. Depending on the type of person you are, you might be “stuck” in the criticism for days or even weeks; you might keep thinking about the criticism, until it start to affect all areas of your life!

So, don’t dwell too much on the criticism. Remember that there are other areas where you are good or even excel at.


I would like to hear your thoughts on how you handle criticism. Leave a comment and let me know…, do you immediately react? Do you dismiss the criticism?

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3 comments:

positively present said...

What a great topic! This is something we're probably all faced with from time to time and I KNOW I don't like criticism and don't always react to it well. I think your most important point is #1. It's so important to listen and not react immediately. When I've done this, I've found that I'm really surprised that sometimes the criticism isn't as bad as I might have originally thought. Plus, it's important to realize that criticism is a way to learn and it's important to listen and keep an open mind. GREAT post on a very difficult topic.

Shamelle said...

@Positively present: I have also found that with time the "sting" of the criticism lessens.

It takes a mature, open and growing individual to handle criticism correctly. One has to be willing to look within and if it fits grow from it.

Mark Foo | TheBigDreamer.com said...

Hi Shamelle,

This is absolutely brilliant. Whenever I'm criticised, especially when someone hits it right on the nail, I have a tendency to retaliate. However, nowadays, I will try to assert more self-control and start talking to myself in my head.

When I start talking to myself, step in #1 - #4 are precisely what I'd do and I'd also ask myself similar questions.

Nevertheless, it is still pretty damn tough and it will remain a struggle for quite some time. Sometimes,it is made even tougher if the party making the criticism puts it across in a nasty way. So, I do agree that we need to move on and not dwell too much on the criticism.

Thanks so much for the great tips! :)

Cheers~

Mark

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