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How to Handle Constructive Criticism

Criticism: whether it’s intended as constructive or not, many of us react with defensiveness and anger. How dare they tell me how to do my job! You might think. Constructive feedback not only increases perspective and bonds, but it also cultivates a trustworthy workplace.  So next time you receive criticism from your peers or manager, take a deep breath and follow these steps:

1. Listen 

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” As much as you may want to jump into the conversation to defend yourself – don’t. Take time to listen to everything they have to say, and give your brain time to process the situation.

2. Try to Understand

After you’ve listened carefully, repeat back to them what you heard. For example, “So you’re saying you’d like me to be more proactive when it comes to helping my coworkers, is that right?” At this point, you’re really just clarifying so there’s no misunderstanding. Tensions can be high, which causes communication issues, so try to be as open as possible.

3. Say Thank You

This might be hard, but put your ego aside and thank the person for their feedback. Expressing your appreciation doesn’t mean that you agree with the criticism, but it shows you’re acknowledging the effort they put into sharing their thoughts. Believe it or not, most people find it difficult to provide constructive feedback to their peers.

4. Ask for Their Advice

Let’s say your colleague told you to speed up the pace of your work. After going through the first 3 steps, you could respectively say something like, “Okay! Do you have any tips for how I could do that?”

5. Don’t Take it Personally

Constructive criticism isn’t an insult or reflection of who you are as a person. It’s simply an observation that someone has noticed in a work environment. It doesn’t matter if the person has good intentions or bad, respond as gracefully as possible and remember that you’re all on the same team working toward the same goals.

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