Tips For Accepting Constructive Criticism To Avoid Sabotaging Yourself – 6 Strategies to Help
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(Several years ago, Celestine Chua, life coach and founder of Personal Excellence, wrote and published an article “How to Give Constructive Criticism: 6 Helpful Tips” also published as the “Constructive Criticism Manifesto”, a guide for offering constructive criticism in a manner that is tactful, useful and beneficial to others. Her manifesto inspired the following post.)
We’ve all been there – giving a speech or a performance, conducting a meeting, or even just making dinner or trying a new hairstyle – those moments when we get constructive criticism from others.
Now, whether it’s from a place of sincerely good intentions or someone just being overly opinionated, it is absolutely to our benefit to learn how to receive it, process it and grow from it.
Upon receipt, you may feel a criticism is justified or you may not, but by definition “constructive” criticism is a valid opinion or observation, the purpose of which is to help the individual receiving it to improve.
And so, the most important thing about getting the criticism is how you react to it – often more important than the actual criticism itself.
Even though it may be difficult or uncomfortable at the time, if you handle it in the right way, it can be a great opportunity for personal growth.
Here are six strategies to help you the next time you get that “uncomfortable (and sometimes unsolicited) feedback”:
6 Tips For Accepting Constructive Criticism
1. Open Yourself to Receive the Information
This is often something that has to start before a word of criticism is spoken. It is a mindset that we have to adopt that says, “no matter what I hear, I will be open to the possibility of it doing some good for me.”
Of course, not all criticism, even if it’s meant to be constructive, will be helpful. Some of it just downright hurts. But if you will open your mind to listen objectively without being defensive, you may be surprised what it can do for you.
None of us has arrived. We are all works in progress and can use some help once in a while.
Will there be unfair criticisms? Sure.
Are there people that just criticize because it makes them feel better? Unfortunately.
But if you listen without your ego and its kissing cousin pride getting in the way, you’ll be able to filter out what is helpful and what is just emotion talking.
Don’t make the mistake of losing out on some genuinely helpful information just because your ego isn’t willing to receive it.
2. Don’t Make Assumptions
It’s very easy to immediately become defensive when hearing constructive criticism. We don’t like what we hear, so we start making up reasons why we don’t need to listen to it: “He doesn’t know what he’s taking about.” “She just doesn’t like me.” “He’s not qualified to give me any advice.”
Of course, considering the situation in this manner is much easier than taking a good look at ourselves and being honest about what may need improvement, but in the end, it does us no good. Maybe the person isn’t qualified, but never just assume that if you don’t know for sure. And don’t assume that you don’t need to listen to criticism just because you don’t like it. In doing so, you cut yourself off from what may be a great opportunity for growth and improvement.
3. Focus on the Situation, not the Person
It can be really tough to separate the words of criticism from the person speaking them. Negative words often equal negative feelings toward their source, when in reality, we should maybe be thanking the individual for their honesty and attempts at helping us.
It’s never easy to criticize a good friend, especially if it is not well-received. But isn’t that what makes for a good friend – someone that is honest and upfront and desires to make you better?
If we can keep the focus on the situation and not on the person, it will go a long way in helping us to improve and also in maintaining relationships.
4. Uncover the Specific Problems
Okay, you’ve gotten past the initial feelings that sprang up when your friend said what she said about your PTA speech. Not easy, so, good for you!
Now, let’s really make what she said work for you.
Ask questions, if you can, to get specific answers about the criticism.
Why did she not understand or agree with something? What would make it better? What wouldn’t?
The more specifics you know, the better you will be able to correct the problem and make improvements.
Although it may be awkward or uncomfortable (remember it can be as difficult to give constructive criticism as it can be to hear it), uncovering as many details as you can will be a great help to you in the future.
5. Find the Elements of the Criticism that You can Take Action On and Plan Your Strategy for Correction
Here’s where it gets real. With what you know from the criticism you received, what can you do to make a change for the better? If you are a planner or list-maker, this should come more naturally for you.
You don’t have to become a different person overnight, but start with one thing that you can do to improve this situation now.
Do you need to be more organized?
Is further research/study/practice necessary? Find something specific that you can begin to implement now.
Taking that first step will make the next steps much easier and give you a sense of accomplishment that can be very motivating to continue to make improvements.
After your first step, plan your second step and so on. A little planning and strategy can take a vague suggestion or comment and make it an achievable goal.
6. Follow Any Recommendations on How to Improve
If you are fortunate (yes, fortunate) enough to receive specific steps or recommendations on how to improve, listen to them.
Of course, it helps if the person offering them has some kind of related experience or expertise in what they are talking about, and if so, this kind of action-specific advice can be invaluable to you.
People are great at saying what they don’t like, but not always so great at giving details on how to improve it.
So, if you can get that information, take it! You can benefit from someone else’s experience, and you may save yourself much wasted time and difficulty by doing so.
In all honesty, no one really wants to get constructive criticism.
We would like to be perfect or as near to it as possible – to be the best at whatever we do, the first time we do it.
But, that is just not reality. We’re all human, and as such, we’re bound to make mistakes.
The sooner in your journey that you can admit that you’re not infallible and can use some help from time to time, the sooner you’ll be growing and improving into the person you want to be…the best version of yourself.
Open your mind and your heart, let down your defenses (at least a little), and you may be surprised at how much better you can be and how much better life can be!
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