Criticism from others is something that we may experience in many, if not all, aspects of our lives. It can range from those we live with, including our children and spouses, to a remark from one of our parents that as soon as it is uttered, makes us curl with irritation, as we revert to our child mode of being ‘told off’ – however old we are in years. We wish they would stop being parental and allow us to make our own mistakes.
Then of course there is the workplace where colleagues and managers might criticise our performance, time keeping or standards. Even though their intention is to help us, it is easy to take it personally and sense a feeling of failure. Criticism may take the form of an unexpected comment from a boss about how we do something that particularly aggravates them, to being told more formally that we are not doing so well in our performance review.
Although criticism can be a regular occurrence, especially in our personal relationships, few people can hear a negative remark about themselves without feeling a whole range of emotions. We could learn a lot about ourselves if we became more aware and basically more mature, about our relationship with criticism itself.
We need to learn how best to receive criticism and indeed how to impart it, without causing a relationship to disintegrate into arguments or sensitivity.
How to Deal with Criticism in a Non Emotional Way.
If you want to succeed or promote your business or idea you will need to get as much attention as possible to increase your exposure. The more people that see it, the more likely you are to receive criticism. However, this is potentially a negative type of criticism coming from people who do not want you to succeed. They might be jealous of your idea or your success, so it is important to be able to differentiate between criticism that is negative and should be ignored, to a more positive type of feedback from those who do want you to succeed.
Grant Cordeon writes in The Huffington Post, that if criticism does not offer a solution then its aim is always to negatively impact the recipient of it. There may be those who do not wish you well, for their own personal reasons and it follows that the more attention you get, the more criticism you will receive. If you can be aware of this then you can learn to use it to your advantage. If you believe in your idea, keep going and try to ignore those giving the unproductive criticism.
Disregarding the jealous type of criticism described above and concentrating instead on the feedback that occurs from a point of love or good intentions, it can still feel hurtful or affect our self-esteem. It is important to try and see it as a positive tool for improvement, rather than something to be feared. We often react with emotion to criticism, especially if it is unexpected. An effective tool to negate this emotional impact on our ego, is to write the feedback down in three columns as follows:
Column 1. What they said
Column 2. What is ‘wrong’ with their criticism
Column 3. What is ‘right’ with it.
Imagine it was written about someone else: making this into a third person scenario takes away the personal feelings. You can then think about how you would advise that ‘someone else’ to take on board the criticism. Once you have done this you can action it as your own.
Try to avoid being defensive. If you do feel emotional about it then write it down as above and ask for time to consider what has been said. If there is anything you don’t agree with then talk to the person concerned after considering your reasons.
If after careful consideration, you agree with some or all of their comments, then you can show how you propose to take their advice on board. However, if you feel that they are not correct in their criticism then sit down together and explain why you feel that and try to come to a mutual way forward, so you are both benefitting. You may need to compromise or ask for their help to show you are willing to try to learn how you can do things better in their eyes. Asking questions is a good way to try to understand if you can still only see things from your angle rather than theirs.
It can be a good idea to pre-empt the situation and ask for feedback. In a family you may decide to have a family meeting once every few weeks, so you can all get things off your chest in a supportive manner. This saves any build-up of fear for those giving the criticism and allows all the family, including children to tell siblings or parents if they have any personal concerns.
A good manager will seek feedback from their staff. Being a manager does not mean you know everything about how your staff work best and whilst you are being paid to delegate and take charge, staff should be able to approach you if they feel they have been treated unfairly. Again, if you have an open-door policy or regular staff meetings it is a good way for your staff to feel heard and valued. You can then refer to your own boss if you are unsure how to take it forward.
The following tips from Tom Ewer on Bidsketch, are simple methods to make giving and receiving criticism go as smoothly and effectively as possible.
When Giving Feedback
1, Be to the point
2, Offer suggestions
3, Be factual
4, Don’t waste time – the sooner it is given after the incident the better
5, Be positive – even when criticising it can be done positively
6, Where possible do it in person
When Receiving Feedback
1, Pause and reflect
2, Don’t take it personally
5, Discuss and stay in touch
If we can all take a good look at ourselves once in a while, with the help of others, we can reduce our stress. Try to see criticism as a form of help – as long as it is delivered in a positive way then this shouldn’t be too difficult. If criticism comes in the form of an attack with no solution or advice, remember this is coming from a place of jealousy or competition and should be dealt with accordingly.
It takes great strength not to react emotionally to perceived negative feedback. If you can be more pragmatic in receiving such comments, then you will most certainly grow as a person.