Who likes criticism? Most of us don’t. We feel uncomfortable when criticized. Our first instinct when we are criticized is to defend ourselves.
Commonly, we feel criticism as an attack and our first instinct is to figure out how to defend ourselves from this attack.
When you view criticism as an attack, you are too focused on defending yourself that you don’t listen to the actual feedback. Instead of taking a lesson from the feedback, you are thinking of how you can justify your actions.
Criticism, therefore, doesn’t take effect and you don’t take any lesson and learn how you can improve yourself and your work.
I understand that not all critics mean well. Some are super mean and just want to say hurtful things. Others don’t know how to deliver criticism and you will be forgiven for always picking defense as your first reaction because you feel attacked.
All the same, well-delivered criticism is good for you. It can help you become more self-aware, understand your work better and understand how you can improve your work and yourself.
Knowing this, how can you receive criticism better and appreciate feedback?
How to receive criticism and appreciate feedback
“People seldom refuse help, if one offers it in the right way.” ~ A. C. Benson.
Prepare for the feedback sandwich
If you are receiving criticism in a formal setting, such as at work, expect the feedback sandwich. Good managers know that the best way to deliver criticism is through the feedback sandwich.
A feedback sandwich is whereby the manager says something nice and positive that you need. This is followed by something negative that you need to improve. The manager then completes this sandwich in with a compliment.
To prepare for a feedback sandwich, understand that no matter how well you did, we all make mistakes or have something to improve on. So, don’t walk into your manager’s office expecting all praises and rainbows.
Instead, accept that the manager can correct you on something and you are ready for it.
This balances your expectations to more realistic ones and allows you not to be too disappointed when something negative is said about your work.
Don’t aim for perfection
Perfectionists don’t take criticism well. They are so focused on shining and being the best. When criticized, they feel as if their intelligence is being insulted.
To handle criticism well, don’t aim for perfection. No matter how good your work is, understand that you and anyone else can make a mistake.
I have written in the past about. It robs you of learning opportunities. Expecting perfection from yourself is being unfair to yourself.
You are human and we all make mistakes. We are also on a learning curve and every correction is an opportunity to learn.
Improve your self-esteem and confidence
Low esteem and low confidence can affect your ability to receive criticism and appreciate the feedback. When you have low esteem, you view criticism as an attack on you as a person and not as a point of correction.
Once someone points out something that you need to correct, you think, ‘oh no, I am so terrible I can’t do anything right’. See what you have done here?
You have not separated the task from yourself. You have let the task act as a determinant of who you are. If the task wasn’t well done, you conclude that you are terrible at what you do.
Confident people have high self-worth and don’t let small failures deter them. When criticized, try to see it as something that you need to improve on your work and not an attack on you as a person. Tell yourself, ‘I now know what to do differently. I will do it better next time’.
Have an open mind
Keep an open mind. As I mentioned earlier, don’t expect that all the work you do will be perfect.
Don’t expect that others will be floored by how good you are (there is no harm in flooring people with your good work, just have an open mind that they could be underwhelmed as well).
Keeping an open mind helps you build resilience. It helps you be open to a different outcome so that criticism will not come as a shock since you were half expecting it.
Change your mindset and be open to learning
I have written about how changing your mindset can transform your life. Your mindset is how you perceive things such as ability and talent. If you think that ability and talent are fixed, then you have a fixed mindset.
You believe that smart people are simply born smart and not-so-smart people are not born smart, and things just remain that way. However, having a growth mindset means that you believe talent and ability are not fixed. You are more open to learning and take each challenge as a learning opportunity.
When criticized, you don’t take it that someone is insulting or attacking your ability. Instead, you appreciate that they are correcting you and showing you how you can improve.
You take criticism as a learning opportunity. Changing your mindset will help you receive criticism better and appreciate the feedback.
Learn to self-critique
In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie discusses how in order to deliver criticism effectively, the person delivering should first point out their own mistake before they point out those of others.
Self-critiquing helps you create better relationships with others as it shows that you are not perfect and you don’t expect them to be. The same way you can make criticism easier for others through self-critique, you can make it better for yourself using the same tactic.
When you self-critique, you accept that you are not perfect. You also invite the other person to point out your errors without the fear of offending you.
Ask for specific details
‘This is a terrible report!’ is not constructive criticism. What makes it terrible? If someone criticizes you, ask for specifics. Ask about the specific areas that you need to improve.
Good feedback is specific as it lets you know your problem areas, why they are a problem and what you can do to improve. Asking for specifics helps you become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses and how you can self-correct.