Getting positive feedback from others is always nice but sometimes we have to face criticism as well. Of course, nobody likes this. Depending on the criticism, the situation and the person criticising, it can leave us feeling anything from mildly thoughtful to humiliated and feeling worthless.
Winston Churchill once said: “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” Unfortunately, not many people enjoy criticism. In fact, many have developed a thick skin and take pride in their ability to brush it off and move on. However, despite its negative connotation, criticism often presents an excellent opportunity to grow . An effective response to criticism, that is without getting angry or taking it personally could leave you thanking the critic for their help!!
Your response to criticism can be seen as a process that you can go through to less the blow and engage your critic in constructive interaction. Firstly:
1. Keep anger out of it!
It has always been my feeling that in every criticism is some truth, however small. Nothing is ever so black and white to say that someone is wrong or right. It is easy to get angry when you receive criticism and this is most people’s first reaction. This is not a good position to switch to. Take a few deep breaths and calm yourself down. There is no point in just talking back though it might seem to be the natural thing to do. Doing so will just escalate proceedings to the status of an argument with neither side getting anywhere. Often we believe we are being personally attacked. This comes from looking at the situation through our own window of reference and applying our own interpretations. This can lead us to making false assumptions about what the critic is trying to say. It is sometimes helpful to put yourself in the critic’s position and look at the situation from their angle.
2. Listen carefully!
It may be our first reaction to jump in and correct our critic and add our own points to the discussion but by doing so, we may be losing a valuable opportunity. Instead of taking an offensive stand and creating a hostile situation, try calming yourself down and paying attention to what the person has to say. It might be of help to you. Ask yourself these questions. Can I learn something from this criticism? Is there something here that I might not like to hear but may help me? Some criticism may be helpful and some may not be. Some people tend to criticize just to put you down or sometimes because they’re having a tough time. In such situations, it is better to stay focused and try to understand the other person. He/she might be upset because of someone or something and just releasing his/her trapped anger. There is no meaning in half of what people say in such situations and at this stage you can decide to respond or not. If you’re not sure whether to agree with someone’s criticism, or if the person giving it seems to be upset or angry about something else entirely, feel free to take a moment to process it all. It’s OK to acknowledge the criticism and ask for time to think it over.
3. Watch that non-verbal behavior.
Your body language and tone of voice can either help or complicate the situation and non-verbal behavior can give away a lot of clues about what we are thinking or planning to do next. Assume a “neutral” posture; keep your arms on the table, in your lap or a combination of both. Maintain eye contact, and be aware of your shifting weight. Avoid crossing your arms, tightening your fists, pursing your lips or rolling your eyes.
4. Start your response with agreement.
The easiest thing to do is to dismiss criticism (if it is constructive) and the person giving it and walk away. However, if you have been truly listening to what was said, an effective response can aid communication and give you an opportunity to learn from it. If we believe an earlier statement that in every criticism is an element of truth, we can be big enough to actually agree with the criticism. A short statement such as “you could be right to a certain extent” or “there is a certain truth to what you say” takes the heat out of the situation and shows that you are open to taking criticism. One of the hardest things to do when you’re criticized is to admit that it’s true. When it is, you can your do best to acknowledge the issue but you don’t have to be overly apologetic. . By admitting fault, you’re taking ownership of the problem and you’re proving that you’re a mature adult.
5. Question, get facts or descriptions, not opinions.
It is only fair that your critic is prepared to give you more information if you ask for it. This information should be based on clear facts and descriptions, not personal opinions. Opinions are assumptions made about you based on things that have transpired; if you’re receiving criticism, be sure to get details and descriptions of the things that specifically caused the problem. Don’t accept generalizations; instead, ask for clarity or specific examples so that you’re able to address issues in the future. This also keeps the conversation focused .
6. Take corrective action if needed.
After you’ve heard the other person out completely, and listened to any suggestions for improvement, communicate your eagerness to improve in the future. If appropriate, describe what you will do to counterbalance your previous error.
7. Acknowledge the other person.
Thank the other person for the feedback and make sure to state how valuable you consider it. This demonstrates your ability to use criticism as a way to improve . In addition, let the other person know that you are open to receiving feedback in the future.
Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a Counseling psychologist in private practice working with individuals, couples, groups and companies. Apart from seeing clients face-to-face, Dr Jenner also runs a thriving online therapy business bringing help to those who are housebound or located in rural locations where therapy is difficult to find. For more information , follow the link to his website HERE
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