By Renee Goyeneche—
In the professional world, collaboration is often the norm, which means we are constantly evaluated at work. Whether it’s feedback from supervisors, colleagues or customers, we receive almost constant feedback on the accuracy and effectiveness of our efforts. A positive commentary can serve as an excellent measure of professional progress, supports a sense of accomplishment and makes us feel valued and inspired to perform at a high level.
However, feedback also has a nasty side: criticism. Getting an unfavorable response to our work can be challenging as it can feel like a personal attack on our skills and expertise, and when reputation and career advancement are at stake, negative feedback can make us lose confidence in the to stagger.
However, it’s important to note that not all criticism is meant to put us down. Constructive criticism can help build us up, especially on a professional level, and it’s a normal part of professional development.
It can help identify areas we need to improve, if provided in a respectful and supportive manner, and how you respond to it can actually improve your professional standing.
If you can demonstrate your ability to receive feedback, learn from mistakes and improve your work without taking it personally, you can seize an opportunity for growth.
Here are some tips for learning to accept constructive criticism gracefully:
- Stay calm. When receiving criticism, it is essential to remain calm. While feeling defensive is a natural reaction to feeling criticized or attacked, avoid a hasty reaction as it can damage professional communication and relationships. Instead, try to stay quiet and listen closely to the other person’s feedback. This allows you to collect your thoughts and respond intentionally, leading to a more productive exchange of ideas.
- Avoid making excuses. If you make a mistake, take responsibility by admitting guilt and accepting responsibility. Don’t downplay the impact of your mistake or make excuses for it; be honest about what happened and why it happened. If possible, work on a solution and consider what you can do differently in the future for a more successful outcome. Demonstrating responsibility and commitment to growth and improvement builds trust and respect in professional relationships.
- Separate the message from the messenger. Focus on the content of the message rather than the person delivering it. This can be especially difficult if your professional approach doesn’t match someone else’s, but it’s important to judge feedback on its merits, no matter who gives it. Is there truth in the criticism? Can you learn something from it? In a professional setting, the goal should be to achieve the best outcome for the company or project, not to prove that your idea or method is the best.
- Ask for clarification. Make sure you fully understand the intent of someone’s feedback to avoid misunderstandings. Once you’ve listened carefully, reflect the message back to them, summarize what you heard in your own words, and then ask for confirmation. You can also use open-ended questions to encourage the person to give more details. For example, try asking questions like “Can you explain what you mean by that?” or “Can you give me an example of what you’re talking about?” to better understand the criticism.
- Take action on feedback: Use constructive criticism as an opportunity to take action and improve your performance. If you receive feedback suggesting that your recent proposal could have been stronger with better organization and more content, consider exploring alternative ways to present data for your next project. Perhaps the addition of visual elements would make the information easier to consume. After creating the new structure, contact the person who provided feedback, tell them that you followed their suggestions, and ask them to review your latest work before presenting it to the team. They may have additional guidance on improving this project for greater impact.
Entertaining and responding to feedback promotes growth and builds professional credibility in several ways. It shows that you are willing to listen to others and value their perspective, which helps build stronger relationships. It also opens the door to learn new things, refine your skills and ultimately become more competent and effective at your job. These things all speak of integrity and help shape your professional reputation.
One final note: While responding professionally to criticism in the workplace is critical, it’s just as important to set boundaries and communicate when feedback isn’t polite or helpful. You have the right to reject unhelpful or disrespectful feedback as you are ultimately responsible for your own professional reputation. Use common sense to determine what feedback is useful and relevant to your tasks.
Renee Goyeneche: I am a writer and research editor who focuses on information that benefits women, children and families. Find me Twitter.