“The trouble with most of us is that we’d rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”
Norman Vincent Peale
I’m sure you know the feeling when someone criticises your work: your ego is hurt, you get defensive — or even aggressive — and try to prove by all means that you were right.
Most of the time, you are even angry at that person and conclude that he did not understand what you meant.
I will not deny that accepting criticism is difficult. It is, however, one of the best way to grow. Indeed, even if compliments and praises provide you feel-good sensations and boost your ego, they are not really instructive.
Criticism, on the other hand, if constructive and truthful, provides you with very accurate feedback on mistakes you made. As commonly known, you learn the most from your mistakes, and facing criticism is the best way to understand those mistakes.
It takes guts to give constructive criticism
You should realise that if your good friends or acquaintances criticise your work, it is for your own good, as they don’t win anything by risking upsetting you.
These honest people are willing to tell you the truth, allowing you to grow, instead of merely praising you so that you will like them in return. Such people are rare, so if you find them, keep them close, as they will be very important for your personal growth.
Be aware that you will also meet people that may want to harm you, so it’s important that you filter the constructive criticism — even if given in a disagreeable way — and just don’t pay too much attention to the rest.
How to handle criticisms in 6 steps
- In my case, I always start from the mindset that the one who is criticising me is doing it with the best intentions.
- That’s an important attitude that will allow you to listen to the criticism, which is the second step. In order words, don’t react! Don’t start to argue. Just listen.
- The third step is to avoid taking everything that is told personally. This is a very difficult step, as it requires that you look at your work from an external point of view. This will help you to understand that the criticism is in fact not aimed at you, but at your work. Remember: your past work is done, you cannot change it anymore. However, you can improve it for the future, and as a matter of consequence improve yourself. The only way to do that is by accepting the added value of the criticism to your work.
- Next, understand this added value by asking questions about the criticism. This will show your critic that you value her opinion, which is important for future collaboration. Furthermore, it helps you to dig deeper and uncover ways to improve even further.
- The fifth step is a very important one: express your gratitude. The person providing you feedback is spending his time on you. You can learn and grow thanks to her, so thank her and mean it. She will appreciate it and feel at ease to do it more often.
- Finally, learn from it. You don’t have to accept all criticism, everyone has his or her own opinion and it’s up to you to decide what are the take-aways. However, by applying the previous steps, you will be able to drop your ego low enough to be (almost) objective about the criticism on your work.
The next time someone criticises your work, apply these 6 steps and pay attention to your feelings. You will notice that you will feel better once you deal with criticism in a calm and objective way. This will help you to reach the stage where you will gladly ask to be criticised without beating around the bush. Believe me, you will grow faster than you can ever imagine!