Learn to stay calm, accept criticism

Inc. Magazine

Many of us say we want feedback at work, but do we really? Do we truly want someone to point out our flaws and limitations? Do we want to be embarrassed about our ineffectiveness and inefficiencies?

If we care about growth and personal development, we do. But receiving criticism can hurt, of course. And that's why it's so important to be good at receiving and responding in a professional manner. Here are three tips to jump start your ability to accept constructive criticism:

Tip 1: Minimize defensiveness

Even if you don't agree with the feedback, it doesn't help in the moment to be defensive. In fact, it's counter-productive. Take an analytical, instead of emotional approach, and think of the feedback as a data point about one person's impression of you.

And while you're doing this, make sure you're really listening and processing. And if negative emotions seem to be getting in the way, do what you can to suppress them in the moment. We lose much of our ability to reason when we are upset.

Tip 2: Take a step back

Try not to respond immediately, even if that's your impulse. Take time to process the feedback. Run it by close colleagues and/or friends. Make a list of things you agree with, things you need more clarity on and things with which you don't agree.

Only once you've done this homework and are in a more rational mood does it make sense to re-engage with the person offering feedback. Otherwise, you likely won't make the most of this key self-improvement opportunity.

Tip 3: Evaluate the evaluator

This was a piece of advice my grandfather often gave, and I think he's right. Just because someone offers you feedback doesn't mean that it's correct. Sometimes feedback is off-base or a person has a particular agenda in delivering it.

So, as part of your vetting process, make sure to evaluate the evaluator and incorporate that into your sense-making process.

In the end, learning to receive feedback well is a crucial part of developing yourself in the workplace. But unless you take a step back, minimize defensiveness and evaluate the evaluator, you can miss a great chance for self-improvement.

Andy Molinsky is a professor of organizational behavior at the Brandeis International Business School.

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