I can tell you — for a fact — that there is probably nobody who struggles with criticism more than I do. In fact, if you were to ask any of my former employers, they would all probably say that “being defensive” was the one quality about me they struggled with the most.
Nobody likes criticism.
I used to have a serious problem with acting like a victim.
I always felt like I was being “attacked” for something. From the biggest to the smallest of things, I did not like to take ownership for my part — or worse — be told how I should have handled things.
I used to become incredibly defensive and angry at anybody who would give me the slightest bit of constructive feedback because I always felt it was unnecessary.
I’ve grown to learn that criticism is a necessity.
Even though we each will receive a fair bit of criticism in our lives, there is no need to feel threatened, defensive, or ashamed of it. It’s all part of breaking away from our comfort zone. In fact, one of the most annoying criticisms I’ve received continuously has been the question, “Why do you do it that way?”
I’m sure you have heard this issue/observation many times also.
For years, this would be my reaction when asked that dreaded question.
“Why did you do it that way?”
5 steps for effective handling constructive criticism
- Avoid being defensive whenever possible. I’ve learned to choose not to be defensive when I receive criticism works best for me. I used to get super defensive whenever I felt criticised. And the only thing I ever accomplished by becoming defensive was to prove I was incapable of respecting other people’s observations. We cannot grow from staying inside a bubble. So, if somebody bursts yours, try and keep calm and hear them out.
- Avoid being quick to react. My father used to tell me all the time that I’m a “highly reactive” individual. As soon as I heard something I didn’t agree with, I would react and typically regret doing so. Being reactive is similar to being defensive, but the difference is that when we respond quickly, we don’t give ourselves time to process the situation correctly. Now, I try to step back from the situation and breathe and think about how I’m going to process it. I may choose to confront or concede, but I will have given myself the opportunity to have a choice.
- Assume the responsibility when it’s your fault. When I’m the root of the problem, I owe it to myself, and everybody involved to accept responsibility for it. Nobody likes the blame game (especially when you’re the one to blame), but it’s a necessary evil sometimes. Assuming the responsibility for your mistake shows that you are big enough to accept and learn from a situation.
- Take it as an opportunity to gain some insight. In every occasion, there is something positive to come out of it and to be at the forefront of criticism is a chance to gain some valuable insight. For example, after you receive a criticism is a perfect time to ask questions about how you can better handle the situation in the future.
- Stop taking criticisms as a personal attack. When objections occur, we often internalise them as an attack on who we are not what we’ve done. You will likely never be able to please everyone. Just because someone questions your work doesn’t mean they are criticising who you are. We all can produce work that disappoints, but that doesn’t mean that we are disappointing.
Learning how to handle criticism constructively is something we all should master. We can choose to see critiques as an opportunity to learn something new about ourselves. As with everything in life, it’s a decision.
Here’s to making the best decisions possible!
How do you handle criticism?
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