I have something tough to say, and you probably won’t like it…
Did you just cringe reading that?
If so, you may have a tough time accepting criticism. Don’t worry though; most people have some sort of issue with criticism. No one wants to be told they are wrong or doing something poorly.
However, being open to criticism is integral to your success. Being able to recognise when you are wrong is the first step towards adjusting your course until you are right!
If you want to learn how to accept criticism with grace, then read on.
- Are They Worth It?
The first step towards accepting criticism is to consider the source. Are you getting criticism from someone you respect? That is worth considering. If you are getting criticism from some habitual complainer, you don’t admire then it’s ok to ignore them and move on.
- Monitor Your First Reaction
When you first hear criticism your “flight or fight” instinct will kick in. Try to quell this initial reaction until you have had time to really consider the criticism. You don’t want to get angry or clam-up or run off. There is nothing wrong with taking some time before responding to someone’s judgment.
- Embrace the Chance to Learn
See criticism as a chance to learn about yourself. Instead of fearing criticism, welcome it. Try to be more curious. You might not like what you hear, but you will learn what you need to adjust or other areas of improvement you can work on in your life, work and relationships.
- Ask Questions
You shouldn’t have to stay quiet when you receive criticism. While you don’t want to lash out, be sure to ask some follow-up questions. Acknowledge that you have heard the criticism, but feel free to ask more specific questions that will help you improve in the future.
- Request More Time
If you have received criticism that is particularly heavy or contentious, then feel free to ask for some more time to process the feedback. This is always better than responding in the heat of the moment. This will give you time to process and think about how you’d like to respond.
- You Don’t Know the Whole Picture
Have you ever been hit with criticism that floored you because it was so out of the blue? If this is the case, remember that you have no idea what the other person is going through. It’s no excuse to take it out on you, but sometimes when you receive criticism it is more about the giver than it is you.
- Thank Your Critic
Responding with a thank you will likely catch your critic by surprise. It is an unexpected response that may actually win them over. They could be impressed with your openness to receiving criticism. Your biggest critic could end up being your biggest fan.
- Decompress with a Friend or Coach
You don’t have to keep your feelings bottled up. If you are hit with a particularly hurtful criticism, reach out to a loved one and talk to them about it. They will likely be far better than you are at putting things in perspective. They will remind you of how wonderful you are and if the criticism is unwarranted, they will have your back.
Here are a few useful exercises to do:
Make a list of people whose honest feedback you’d truly value. Think about loved ones, people you care about or inspirations. Think about the people in your field who have achieved what you want to. List them all.
Reflect on the most memorable piece of criticism you’ve received recently. Write it down and take time to really think about it. Was it warranted? Did it help you at all? Sometimes in retrospect you can find a lesson that you never even realised you learned.
Start a criticism journal. Every time someone you respect gives you constructive criticism, write it down in a journal. Take some time to consider if it is warranted or not. If it is then write an action plan to address the issues (i.e. if you are lacking skills, how can you acquire them).