Constructive or not, criticism can be tough to accept.
How can you take constructive criticism effectively without taking criticism personally?
To answer this question, we gathered a group of leaders and business professionals to seek their perspectives. We asked the leaders for their tips on what they value in employees who accept criticism. The business professionals were asked for their advice on accepting criticism.
Here are 12 tips on how to take criticism at work.
Keep in Mind Your Boss or Client’s Intentions
When receiving constructive criticism, it is important to remember that your boss or your client is simply trying to make the final product more on-brand. Their feedback is not about your ability or execution of the project, so don’t let their comments affect your confidence.
Thorin Yee, Best Companies TX
Separate Yourself From Your Work
The easiest way to take constructive criticism is to separate yourself from your work. Oftentimes, people are personally hurt when their work isn’t appreciated because they think their work is a reflection of them. When designing or creating something for another business, it is important to note that their feedback is simply trying to get the final product to reflect the brand more than yourself.
Blake Murphey, American Pipeline Solutions
“Coaches Only Yell if They Care”
I have played sports my entire life. A quote that has stayed with me during my years on and off the court is “Coaches only yell if they care.” While I don’t have a manager or director that actually yells at me, I do often get constructive criticism from them and they let me know when I am not performing to the best of my abilities. I don’t take it personally, because I know they only point out areas of improvement because they truly care about how I do at my job! Coaches hardly yell at the players on the bench not contributing anything to the game, so if your superiors are taking the time to express constructive criticism, take it as a sign that you are an important part of the team.
Kayla Centeno, Markitors
Remember What Hat You’re Wearing
In any professional position, you have to compartmentalize at times. When I go to work, I have to put on my “work hat” I leave my other hats at home and focus on the responsibilities for the day ahead. When I receive constructive criticism about my work, I have to remember what hat I am wearing and only apply the criticism to my work performance. This does not mean I am a bad person or bad friend, it simply means I can do better at the job I was hired to do. When I go home and the work hat comes off, I don’t let it bother me or affect me personally.
Deborah Shaw, Y Scouts
Accept Your Blind Spots
Think about driving an RV on a busy freeway, and wanting to merge into the next lane. You might get honked at, which can sound startling, but is a form of constructive feedback. A nearby driver may be altering you to an object in a blind spot or could be sharing that you’re going too far. Much like a honk from a car, feedback in the workplace can sound alarming. Seek to understand where and why the honk is occurring in the first place, take things slowly, and rely on the people around you to help satisfy your blind spots.
Randall Smalley, Cruise America
View It as a Set of Instructions
Constructive criticism should be strictly seen as a set of instructions meant to hone in your talents rather than as a weapon that cripples your goals and aspirations. Always remember that constructive criticism is offered to boost your effectiveness and not the other way around.
Mark Christensen, People & Partnerships
Let It Fuel Your Job Hunting Efforts
Taking constructive criticism is part of the recruitment process. Unfortunately, there are too many instances when candidates don’t hear anything back from recruiters at all. So, if you are fortunate enough to receive feedback, you should use that criticism to fuel your future job hunting efforts. Almost always, criticism isn’t personal so as soon as you shake that from your thinking, it will serve you well moving forward.
Justin Lestal, DevSkiller
Remember They Are Giving You A Choice
When someone gives you feedback, even “constructive criticism” realizes they are simply giving you a choice. You can ignore their input or take it to heart and work to improve. If it’s a one-off comment you can opt to toss it, but if it’s a theme you’ve heard before, it’s time to listen. Your move? Accepted it like an ugly Christmas gift. Smile, thank him or her and be grateful you were thought of.
Tim Toterhi, Plotline Leadership
Reframing the way we think about feedback is the first step in accepting it. If we think of feedback as criticism instead of a gift, we are approaching it from a negative instead of a positive standpoint. Think to yourself, what is the intent of the feedback? What do I take away from this feedback that will propel me forward towards my goals? Marshall Goldsmith wrote about what he calls “Feedforward” instead of feedback. Goldsmith says we should focus on what we can change going forward instead of looking back. Reframing how you see and receive feedback is the first step in taking actionable steps forward.
Kerri D’Astici, HR and Career Blueprint
Share the Style of Feedback You Find Most Helpful
It can be difficult to take the most constructive and neutral critical feedback effectively when you’re feeling insecure about something you’re working on or not feeling resilient! When I feel dismayed about some feedback that I’ve received and am not feeling confident about my work, I try to imagine how I would give the feedback in that person’s shoes — in many cases, I may phrase something differently but would likely have the same intention at heart! If someone’s feedback is consistently affecting your confidence, however, it’s worth talking to them about the process and explaining what styles of feedback you would find more helpful, perhaps with a third party of a colleague/HR person if you’re feeling uncomfortable about it.
Camille Brouard, Myhrtoolkit
Let Constructive Criticism Reinforce Your Goals
We are human so it’s understandable that constructive criticism can sting. However, put it in the context of what your goals are. How does what you are hearing impact what you believe your success looks like? Constructive criticism is meant to help you reinforce your work and continue to build rather like how you’d want to reinforce the foundation of your home if you were looking to expand it.
Parissa Behnia, Sixense
Clarifying Questions and Trust Listening
Receiving constructive criticism without taking criticism personally is a valuable skillset that requires the following: listening, clarifying questions, and trust listening. These are key to receiving the presented information fully and without defense. Clarifying questions will allow the receiver to understand the information and to make the information task-focused rather than personal. Without trust that constructive criticism is an attempt to improve, the message is lost.
Sonja Talley, Principal HR Consultant