Thursday, February 18, 2010

Criticism: Taking It With Class

In the last post, I talked about giving criticism. Now I want to tackle the other side, receiving criticism. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to give criticism which can make receiving criticism even more difficult. Criticism delivered in anger or with the intent to rattle you is absolutely no fun to receive.

Here are five tips for receiving criticism with class.

It Could Be Personal: A lot of people will tell you not to take things personally. However, there are times when it is personal… at least to the other person. When people take things personally, they often lash out – wanting you to take it personally too. Don’t take the bait. I know, much easier said than done. Half the battle is realizing what they are trying to do (even if they don’t recognize it themselves). It helps me, if I make it into a game. I call it The I-Know-You-Are-Trying-To-Get-To-Me-But-I-Won’t-Let-You Game. The object of the game is to remain calm. If I do, I win!

Listen for Lessons: Even when criticism is delivered badly, there is normally a nugget of truth you can take from it. Focus on listening for that lesson and less on the delivery. If you can get the lesson, you can keep from making the same mistakes in the future.

Speak Up: If you have a question, ask it. If you need clarification, get it. If you can offer an explanation, explain it. You are not a puppy who has no choice but to walk away with his tail between his legs. The trick to speaking up is to do it calmly and matter-of-factly. You don’t want to be sucked into an emotional sinkhole that will inevitably end up as an argument.

Don’t Let It Get You Down: It can be hard, especially if you are being criticized about something important to you, to not take it personally. Sometimes, we let the criticism define us and we extrapolate the situation and make it bigger, darker and meaner than it ever was. Contain it. The criticism was on one topic, don’t turn it into an indictment about your personality and character. “I’m so stupid.” “I always make dumb mistakes.” “I never get it right.” Keep your criticisms focused and small. “I need to make a little time for chores.” “I need to proofread better.”

Take Action: Once you find the lesson, what did you learn? What can you do better next time? How can you prevent this same criticism from happening again? “I need to leave 10 minutes earlier so I’m not late for work.” “I need to get a second set of eyes to read over my work.” “I need to get the chores done before I get involved in something else.”

Criticism becomes constructive when you know how to use it to improve.

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