Putting yourself out there can be intimidating. After all, what will people say? No one likes to be told they’ve done something wrong, but in order to grow, it’s important to push past the fear of negative feedback and take action anyway. Criticism is something that comes along with the job…and it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You have the power to do something great with it, and inspire those around you to do the same.
Here are four tips for handling criticism at work. Implement these the next time someone comes to you with feedback, and start to chip away at those fears inside your head.
1. Listen and keep an open mind.
Actively listen to the feedback and check your ego at the door. Assume the intentions of the other person are good and hear them out. Take a deep breath if you need to; it’ll calm you down. Usually, someone will come to you with the intention of helping you learn something new or improving in an area. If you’re unclear on the feedback, be sure to ask questions or reframe it back to them. This is not a time for miscommunication. It’s important that you understand it completely and receive the feedback well.
2. See what you can learn.
You already know that no one is perfect, so keep that in mind and seek out personal improvement. Take some time to process the information. What can you learn from what was just delivered to you? Is there something there that will help you improve personally or professionally? Do not bury your head in the sand and assume that you’d be better off ignoring the advice. Your natural instinct is to protect yourself and run away, but remember. This is the office — not a life or death situation.
3. Don’t take it personally.
Assume the other person isn’t out to harm you. If your instinct is that they are personally attacking you, take a step back and ask yourself what’s really going on. Oftentimes, what we see in another person is a reflection of something that we are afraid to see in ourselves. If it feels like the person giving you the feedback is a “know-it-all”, contemplate if you’ve ever worried that someone has that same perception of you. Notice where you feel triggered and try to identify the root cause. Did something happen in the past that is bringing up these negative emotions?
Note: If it turns out that the person is being overly negative, aggressive, or really is personally attacking you, be sure to remove yourself from the situation ASAP. This is unprofessional, and no one should ever put up with a workplace bully. If it persists, take it up with HR or your supervisor.
4. Say thank you.
Be gracious for the feedback you’ve received, no matter how tough it may have been to hear it, and thank the other person. Surprise them with your positive attitude! Practicing gratitude is something you should already be incorporating in your daily life. Incorporating mindfulness at work can help you deal with difficult situations in a new light.
Criticism is something that everyone needs to deal with. Make it more tolerable by following the tips above. Instead of ignoring the feedback or putting up a fight, keep an open mind and see what you can learn. The way you handle feedback is a direct path to how your colleagues will respect and receive you moving forward. Keep it positive and show them that you are professional.
- Jaswanth Vellanki