5 Keys to Dealing with Criticism
While complex is many ways, when it comes to some things people are very simple.
We like being told we are great and hate when people say that we suck.
Criticism is often a translation for something deeper or larger than the comment made, it also may be the symptom for another issue all together. Especially amongst those in leadership positions, some use criticism as a tool (the good old “break them down to build them back up again” strategy) to get what they want.
Here are some key things to do when you are confronted with criticism. These steps will help you take something others are critical of and either turn it around or make it a non-issue.
- Say Thank you- Let’s start with the toughest one first. One of the hardest things to do is bite your tongue when someone is being critical of you, especially when you think the other person is wrong. If you can have the self-restraint to listen all the way through and thank them for what they shared with you, you can better hear their message (and probably throw them off a bit with your reaction). Remember, though, that a majority of communication is none verbal, so your tone and body language need to match your words.
- See things from their point of view- It is tough to take a step back when you are being attacked. It is important to not fixate on small pieces to the criticism. On the contrary, you want to make an effort to see where the other person is coming from and why they are communicating to you. Seek to understand the other person.
- Translate their True intention- Often criticism is really code for something else. At times people criticize us to make us better and other times they do it to cut us down. Learn how to tell the difference and translate their underlying message to see what they are truly saying. Are they being critical because of the great work that you do? If so, find ways to help them get better. Are they being critical because they got yelled at for something you did? If so, uncover this and acknowledge your mistake. Taking ownership amidst criticism is an important skill to learn.
- Refute (with evidence)- The key to dealing criticism is not to always “taking it off the chin.” Sometimes, the person being critical of you is flat-out wrong and you need to defend yourself amongst false accusations. It is important not to immediately respond to everything said. Nor do you want to start to criticize the other person for things they have done (escalating things to a full-out fight). Instead, confirm what the other party is saying by repeating it back to them and getting them to agree that your response encapsulates what they are criticising you about. Then explain to them where their viewpoint is wrong (and where it is right) with specific evidence (not emotion, logical evidence). If someone is critical of you in a public setting, find a way to set the record straight without smearing the other person.
- Use Criticism as a tool- Many times criticism can be avoided. I would recommend not to openly criticize others (to their face or behind their back). Organization politics and alliances can be a complex web of relationships (think about any season of Survivor) and you do not know if your criticism will reach others (plus it may be mistranslated in the process). At the same time, if you are always a “yes-man” (or woman) that agrees with everything people say then people will not be respected. Voice your opinion, even if it is negative. However, when you need to offer criticism, do so with an acknowledgement of a few positive things and then offer suggestions to help with the parts you are criticising.
Most of all, don’t fear criticism. It is a part of life and shouldn’t be taken personally (which is easier to do when you take a step back and fully leverage steps 2 & 3). You ultimately have the choice whether to let criticism tear you down or help it build you up and plug up some gaps that you may have.
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