It is not easy to graciously accept constructive criticism. Many people struggle with receiving feedback even it’s completely accurate. For some as soon as the words critique are mentioned, their minds begin to race searching for an explanation for the seeming assault on their person. And they look for an angry reply to rationalize their actions in question.

Regrettably, in the heat of such moments, you may react with anger and defensiveness or—yet worse—end up attacking the person giving you the feedback. But truth be told, you’ve got to get over it. There is value in receiving constructive criticism—it helps you identify areas of improvement and your weaknesses. Therefore being able calmly and professionally to handle it will help you in maintaining relationships and in flourishing in everything you do. To help you learn to shy away from the defensive, here are steps to help you tactfully handle the encounter with grace the next time your manager or peer offers you constructive criticism.


Check Your First Reaction

From the first sign of any criticism, before saying anything —stop. Aim at not to reacting at all! This way you will give yourself at least a second to end your reaction. Although one second may seem insignificant in reality, it’s sufficient for your brain to consider the situation. In that instant, you can stop a reactive quip or a dismissive facial expression thus reminding yourself to remain calm.

Consider The Benefits Of Receiving Feedback

Since you have some seconds to promptly remind yourself of the advantages of getting constructive criticism—that is, to improve your work productivity, skills, and relationships, and also help you meet the potential that your boss and peers hold of you.

You need to also try to hold back any reactions you are having towards the person delivering the feedback. It may be challenging to accept criticism from a colleague, peer, or someone that you may not fully respect. Even then remember, constructive and accurate criticism can even come from flawed sources.

Focus on Understanding

When the person is sharing their views with you, pay close attention. Let the person share their whole thoughts, with no interruptions. Once she or he is finished, repeat back to them what you have heard. For instance “I hear you say that you would like me to give more thorough weekly reports, is that correct?” at the moment, avoid questioning or analyzing the person’s evaluation; instead, try to focus on understanding their perspective and comments. At this point you can give the benefit of the doubt—hey, it’s not easy to offer feedback to anyone. Recognize that the individual giving you the feedback may be anxious or may not perfectly express his or her ideas.


Express Appreciation

This being the hard part, look the individual in the eyes and express gratitude to her or him for sharing the feedback with you. Try not to gloss this over—be intentional, and say, “I truly am grateful for that you have taken the time to speak to me about this.” Expressing your appreciation does not mean that you are agreeing with their assessment. However, it shows that you are recognizing the effort your coworker took to assess you and even share her or his thoughts.

Pose Questions For More Clarity On The Feedback

It’s now time to take-in the views—you’ll possibly want to have more clarity at this stage and give your viewpoint. Avoid getting into a debate; instead, pose questions to dig up the root of the real issues being brought up and likely solutions for dealing with them. For instance, when a coworker says to you that in a meeting you got a bit heated, below are several ways to clarify the feedback:

Ask for specific instances to help you recognize the issue: “I was a bit frustrated, but could you share instances during the meeting when you consider I got heated?”

Accept the view that is not being disputed: “You’re right, I did interrupt him as he was talking, and also I later made an apology for that.”

Seek to understand if the issue is isolated (for instance, a blunder you made on one occasion): “Have you noticed other meetings that I have got myself heated?”

Look for particular solutions to deal with the feedback: “I’d like to hear your thoughts on how I may handle this in a different way in future.”

Ask for Time for a Follow-Up

Thus said, when the issue is much bigger, or an issue presented by your manager, you might want to request to have a follow-up meeting for you to pose more questions as well as get an agreement on the next steps. And this is OK as it will give you time to take in the feedback, ask for counsel from others, as well as come up with solutions.

Without constructive criticism, you can’t improve since it’s the only way you get to know about your weaknesses. When you get defensive, instead of acknowledging this graciously, you risk missing out on getting important insight. Bear in mind that feedback isn’t easy to give and it’s definitely tough to accept, however, it will help you now and in future.

Are you able to take criticism positively? Share with us your feelings and thoughts in the comments below.


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25 replies on “Swallowing Criticism With Pride

  1. Great advice, Kally! Sometimes we just have to eat humble pie and learn from our superiors, even if we think we know better. It helps build a solid relationship with the team and shows we are willing to take advice.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Your article presents a plethora of constructive and useful advice. As an independent author, constructive criticism is much more valuable than mere validation or superficial affirmation in terms of improving one’s craft. Unfortunately, one encounters others competing in the indie book business who have yet to understand this. And by the way, I would like to offer my sincere gratitude and appreciation for the recent flurry of likes.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I think there is a tendency to take criticism personally and think that it’s an attack on you as an individual, Kally. But I think if you receive it in a spirit of wanting to learn and grow, then it becomes a sort of nurturing for the soul which is something it has taken me a while to understand. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is great advice! We can learn so much from constructive criticism if we let ourselves: we don’t have to act on it (or even agree with it) but it surely gives a wider predictive in our actions if we are at least open to listening. How else are we to grow? Great advice!


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