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How to... take criticism

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Getting positive feedback for what you do is great. We all like to know how we are doing; if we are meeting our targets and whether we are perceived as being effective.

Unless, of course, we aren’t. Being criticised at work, whether by a member of your team, a peer or a senior colleague, is not fun. It may be a valuable opportunity to learn something new about your role, but it is a learning opportunity that most of us would happily do without.

So how do you learn to take a more positive attitude to being told you are getting something wrong? Here are some top tips to help you through a difficult process.

  • De-personalise the criticism. Take a step back to consider what is being said. Remind yourself that it is a specific behaviour that is under scrutiny, not your entire personality. Don’t go into an automatically defensive mode; be as objective as you can.

  • Clarify the complaint. If the criticism is verbal, get a clear fix on what is being identified as an issue during the conversation. If the criticism is written, don’t hide behind email, initiate a face-to-face meeting to discuss the matter further. Be professional about this, rather than giving the impression you want to meet up for a slanging match.

  • Seek guidance. Ask the person concerned what they want you to do differently. Put the onus on them to be positive about what you could do in future, rather than focusing on their negative view of what you have done in the past.

  • Consider the criticism. Does it strike a chord? Is this an aspect of your performance or behaviour you have not addressed previously. Is this something you can work on?

  • Get a second opinion. Talk to a trusted colleague or mentor, or someone outside work and ask for their honest opinion. If the verdict is that you have been given some relevant feedback, put your ego to one side and try to alter your behaviour accordingly.

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