Receiving criticism as a working adult is never easy. It’s hard not to take criticism personally, and it can be even harder if you get it a lot. However, with careful processing, a positive attitude, and regular self-evaluation, you can turn criticism at work into a source of empowerment and success.
Strive to avoid emotional reactions. Receiving criticism can be really upsetting, but try not to respond while you're upset. Take some time to understand the circumstances of the criticism and collect yourself before responding.
If you are expected to respond immediately in an upsetting situation, try saying something like, "May I have some time to process what you've said? I promise to get back to you shortly."
Listen carefully to what’s being said. Criticism of any kind can be hard to take, but it’s important to listen to exactly what’s being said, so that you understand the problems and can improve your work.
If confrontation makes you nervous or upset, it’s okay to ask for criticism to be sent to you in writing (as an email or revision request report) so that you can better process the information.
Just make sure that you take the time to absorb what is being communicated to you.
Don’t get defensive. Even if you disagree with what’s being said, it’s still important to consider other perspectives and opinions, especially if you’re working in a subjective field, like art or politics.
Take notes. It can be hard to receive criticism, but it’s even harder to receive the same criticism twice, so be sure to take careful notes of what’s being said. Record any specific points of reference.
For example, if you’ve just given a presentation and your project leader specifically criticizes the way you constructed your conclusion, be sure to write that down so you can avoid the same problem next time.
Ask questions. Make sure you understand what the criticism entails. You won’t be able to improve if you don’t understand what’s wrong, so be sure to request clarifications or ask questions if you have any. Asking questions also shows that you want to improve and get the task right next time.
Make sure to ask questions in a positive and specific way.
For example, “When you mentioned that my data tables were too busy, would it be better to separate the information into sub-tables or do I just need to adjust the presentation style, in terms of font type and size?
Say “thank you” at the end of the conversation. As hard as it can be to accept criticism, it’s still important to be gracious and thank people for the time they are taking to help improve your work. Even if you don’t feel thankful in the moment, you’ll be glad you said it when you see your skill level improve.
Begin revisions right away. Don’t waste time being upset or down about criticism. Instead, get to work right away. Do your best to incorporate the criticism into your revised work, so that you don’t forget what was advised.
Ask for an informal review of your attempt at improvement. Once your revisions are complete or you have done your best to incorporate feedback, ask your boss or manager to quickly look over your work to check that you properly addressed the criticism.
Not only does this show respect and a desire to improve, but it is also gives you time to develop and refine your skills without the pressure of a formal performance or subsequent confrontation about it.
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