You already know that effectively doling out constructive criticism involves a fair bit of strategy and consideration. But, it turns out that being on the receiving end of those comments also entails a little bit of thought—and that means not just absentmindedly nodding your head while actually tuning out those critiques.
After all, you want to demonstrate that you’re an eager employee who’s willing to use that feedback in order to learn and improve—and not the employee who’s going to burst into tears and sprint to the nearest vacant bathroom stall at the first sign of adverse opinions.
So, how do you pull that off (particularly when the safety of that restroom is oh-so-tempting)? Avoid making these six mistakes when receiving constructive criticism, and you’re sure to take it all like a champ!
1. You’re Taking it Too Personally
So, your boss thinks that your project isn’t quite up to snuff, and presents some suggestions and ideas to take it to the next level.
Following the meeting, you rush out of his office with thoughts that go something like this, “He just tore my project apart! He must think I’m the stupidest employee ever. This was my very best work, so he’s just politely insinuating that I’m an idiot.”
Sound familiar? We all do it. It’s hard not to take criticisms of your work personally—it’s your work. But, it’s important that you remember that true constructive criticism isn’t a personal attack on you, no matter how much it might feel like it. And, if you become overly emotional or defensive when responding to feedback? Well, then you’re the one making things personal.
2. You’re Not Asking Questions
I tend to react the same way when presented with constructive assessments of my work: I nod along in agreement, go back to my desk, and then start back at square one—even if I’m not quite clear on what I should be improving.
While this tendency to keep your head down and push forward until that critic finally stops talking might seem like a great approach for making it through, it’s really not effective for generating the best result.
When people are making comments and suggestions, you’re bound to have questions about what they mean and where they’re coming from—you did it your way to start with for a reason. So, go ahead and ask them to expand on their ideas! The more clarification you can get, the better your end product will be.
3. You’re Assuming the Worst
Along the same lines as taking things too personally, it’s all too easy to think that those who are criticizing you are just mean, brutal, and bossy people who are only out to embarrass you.
But, if you want to respond well to feedback (and avoid getting too defensive), you need to recognize that these people have really pure intentions. Their goal is to help you learn, grow, and improve. So, don’t just assume that they’re only seeking to point out your flaws and shortcomings—they’re really just trying to help.
4. You’re Not Listening
“I think you’re on the right track, but…”
If you’re like most people, you hear that dreaded “but…” and then your eyes glaze over. You should be listening to all of the helpful information that follows—but you’re too busy internally obsessing over the fact that your work isn’t perfect.
However, if you continue going that route, you’re missing the most important element of constructive criticism—the constructive part. Being on the receiving end of feedback (even if it’s helpful!) isn’t always easy. But, do your best to be present and absorb that advice. I promise, it’s typically advantageous!
5. You’re Not Using It
Listening is one thing. But, in order to actually make the most of constructive criticism, you can’t just hear it—you need to use it.
Take the suggestions you agree with and implement them in order to actually improve your work. Not only will you demonstrate that you’re a professional who’s always looking to learn and grow, but you’ll also end up with a much better final result. It’s a win-win!
6. You’re Ungrateful
Thanking someone for criticizing you seems counterintuitive, I know. But, think about it this way: This person gave some serious thought to your work and took the time to offer ideas that will make you, your project, or your work in general better.
That’s something that’s worthy of a hearty “thank you”—even if it was a little hard to hear.
Responding to constructive criticism isn’t always easy. In fact, all too often, bursting into tears seems like the only response you can muster.
However, if you’re open to it, this feedback can serve to be especially productive and helpful. Stay far, far away from these six common mistakes, and you’re sure to take (and use) constructive criticism with grace, poise, and professionalism.
Photo of co-workers courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author