The Art of Accepting Constructive Criticism

Photo of an employer delivering constructive criticism.
If it's been a while since you've been criticized at work, either one of two things are happening:

1) You don't have a very demanding job, or 
2) Your job may be difficult, but your managers are letting you become stagnate, holding back the correction and instruction that would otherwise help you learn, change and grow.

Since these two things rarely happen, you're probably in a situation just like the rest of us, which means your work and your efforts are occasionally called into question. Recognize that the way you accept criticism will have a huge impact on the impression you make with your bosses, customers and coworkers. So when you're criticized, handle the situation with class by keeping these considerations in mind.

Criticism Is a Gift

If you really care about your job, and you care about doing it well, honest criticism is a gift. It's difficult to criticize. This is a confrontational gesture that can be awkward for both parties, so someone who's willing to pull you aside and set you straight is usually overcoming a few social and emotional obstacles to do so. A person who shouts in your face and calls you names is just disrespectful, but someone who discreetly and diplomatically helps you advance your own interests is showing you respect and doing you a favor. The honesty and courage behind thoughtful criticism usually come at some cost to the giver. Try to recognize this cost and appreciate it.

Pride & Ego Are Not Your Friends

It hurts to be told we're less than perfect. Even when evidence points to the contrary, some stubborn part of us always wants to believe that we are brilliant beings bound for fame and glory. And when this belief is questioned, we tend to retreat and protect ourselves with an arsenal of clever defenses. We try to explain away our mistake, we turn the criticism back on the giver (who are they to judge?), and sometimes we launch into a list of all the things we've done right, hoping to balance out the weight of what we've done wrong. Don't reflexively reach for your arsenal of protective weapons. Criticism can't hurt you or change who you are at the core. So just be calm, open your ears and let it in.

Remember What You're ToldCriticism can be rattling, so don't get so flustered or caught up in the heat of the moment that you later forget what you've been told. Write it down.

Control Your Demeanor

Don't be dramatic, and don't overestimate the significance of the situation. You may feel like this event is altering the rotation of the earth on its axis, but your boss will probably have forgotten this moment by the end of the day. Delivering constructive criticism is her job, and she does it all the time. She won't lose sleep over this. But if you will, try not to let it show. Just stay collected and focused on the future. Figure out what you need to change as you move forward, and concentrate on your next steps.

Get Ahead By Taking Criticism in Stride

Are you eyeing a promotion or planning your next move up the career ladder? If you are, it's more important than ever to open yourself up to criticism and take honest feedback seriously. Start putting an advancement plan in place, then visit LiveCareer for guidance, networking advice and resume building tipsthat can help you get where you need to be.

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