Dealing Effectively With Criticism

March 13, 2021

It doesn’t matter what stage of your career you find yourself, criticism is rarely easy to hear. However, while it is hard to hear, criticism can often stimulate professional and personal growth – if have the maturity and perspective to process it. In this week’s blog we’ll look at ways to deal with criticism in the right way – the way that makes us better! Below, we’ve outlined some guidelines for adopting the positive mindset that allows us to harness the power of criticism for our betterment. 

How to take criticism without being defensive. It might hurt, but they might have a point… 

  1. Stay relaxed. Resist the temptation to provide an emotional response – even if you feel that way. Keeping your emotions under control will enable you to listen better. Take some deep breaths and keep your body language open. Remember, there is very likely a nugget that you can use to get better, and if you’re tempted to get defensive – get clinical. Giving criticism is rarely easy, and if someone has taken the time to give it to you, assume they actually want you to get better and realize your true potential.
  2. Look on the bright side. If you’re sensitive to criticism, remind yourself of your good qualities and the many things that you do well. As hard as it might be, recognize that the alternative was that you stayed the same, never knowing how or what to work on or improve, and then feeling clueless as to why your career wasn’t progressing as hoped.

  3. Keep an open mind. Your co-workers may have valuable suggestions for areas where you can improve. Respect their point of view and be humble, ego kills professional and personal growth and is the enemy of good leadership. Be receptive to new ideas and alternative approaches, recognizing that your self-perception doesn’t always reflect the way others see you. You might learn something that makes your job easier, and your skill set greater.

  4. Look for the humor in the situation and don’t take yourself too seriously. Even if you receive unjustified comments, you can make them easier to deal with by noticing the comic elements. If the comments are unjustified, humor can also nullify much of the malice that might exist.

  5. Take a compassionate view. Your supervisor may speak harshly about your performance because they’re stressed about pressures in their own life. Give others some leeway if you know they just came out of a difficult budget meeting or are experiencing challenges at home.

Responding to Feedback From Supervisors and Colleagues


  1. Invite feedback, don’t fear it. Asking for feedback regularly beats waiting for the annual performance review. You’ll get prompt and specific guidance for doing your job better, and you’ll demonstrate your ability to take initiative. It also means you can head off any issues that would have otherwise been saved for an annual review or salary review!
  2. Ask questions. Show the other person you’re really listening by asking pertinent questions. You’ll also clarify any areas of doubt and ask for specific guidance and benchmarks for improvement.

  3. Hear the other person out. Let the other person speak without interrupting, allow them to say whatever they need to. In turn, you will be surprised at how often that person is then willing to hear your response, especially if you can remain calm, measured and open. Whatever you do, avoid becoming defensive.
  4. Conduct an honest self-appraisal. Let’s not pretend this is always easy, but regular self-evaluations of your own work will often head off issues before others will think to criticize you for them. It will also allow you to see the merit in criticism, so that it becomes constructive, regardless of how it was intended.

  5. Focus on the message. Distinguish between the content of the message, the person delivering it and the manner they use. Even if you think someone is being less than courteous, there could still be some truth in what they’re saying.

  6. Get a second opinion. Surveying other people around the office is helpful if you need some objective input. You may find out that your experience is typical. On the other hand, you may discover that you’ll need to make a special effort if you and your boss appear to be a difficult fit.

  7. Document your position. If there’s an ongoing disagreement, find ways to support your conclusions. Industry statistics or internal memos may strengthen your case. However things turn out, you’ll contribute to a constructive and informed dialogue. Consider saving files and emails that might be used later, so that you are not scrambling for them, after the criticism is raised.

  8. Be gracious. Set a good example by offering your feedback in a way that’s timely and specific. Focus on people’s conduct and the thrust of what they are saying, rather than their personalities or delivery style. This will encourage better morale and office communications. Show your willingness to cooperate with everybody, even when you experience occasional conflicts.

  9. Schedule a follow-up session. Let people know how much you appreciate their advice. After you’ve had time to implement their suggestions, tell them how they helped to improve your performance. This will also give you a chance to make a better impression on them.

The good thing about criticism is that you have total control over how your hear it, and what you do in response to it. Without a doubt, the professional who regularly self-reflects, hears criticism with an open mind and is willing to adjust where necessary will not only be more respected by the peers, but they will reap the professional rewards.

– The Professionists



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