Being open to criticism, good or bad, is vital to being successful in any job. How else are you going to know what to improve on, how to grow, and areas may require more focus?
When it comes to receiving criticism, it doesn’t always come gracefully. We like to think of ourselves as perfect employees, capable of doing no wrong. But is this really true? Not likely. We are all humans, and we are going to make mistakes. In fact, one of my favorite interview questions to ask candidates is to explain a time they made a mistake and what they learned from it. We all have a story and boy, have I heard some doozies. Everyone is human and we will all make mistakes from time to time. Myself included.
I am no stranger to receiving criticism. It’s not only an important part of my job and career growth, but also a part of my human growth. Criticism is vital to evolve. Without it, we would become stagnant and bored. I admit, it’s not an easy thing for me and doesn’t always come naturally. However, there are a few things I remember to be successful in receiving criticism.
First, remain calm. Try to avoid buying in to your initial reaction, which is likely defensive, angry, or hurt. These are natural feelings that come up to try to protect us. Receiving criticism does not mean you are a terrible employee. It also does not mean you are a terrible person. The criticism may sound catastrophic, and you may feel as though you have let your manager, your team, and yourself, down. It’s important to try to “stay in the now” (to quote a great 90’s movie) and remember that there are also areas in your job that you are excelling. Stay present, breathe, and assume positive intentions from the giver of the criticism.
Second, listen. Listen with an open mind…and heart. Try to think of times the criticism could be true or maybe times you may come across a certain way – whether you mean to or not. Truly hearing criticism doesn’t mean you have to agree with it- remember that! Even if you don’t agree with the criticism you are receiving, do your best to put yourself in the other persons shoes. True personal growth comes with an open heart and an understanding for others.
Third, ask questions. Does what you’re hearing not make sense to you? Do you remember some of the circumstances in which a situation took place? Ask for specifics or maybe for an example that the person is referencing. I know I do much better with examples and information that can help refresh my memory. It helps me recall the situation and figure out what my intentions were, how they were perceived, and any areas I can work on to improve how I am perceived.
Finally, follow up. Ask for some time to process the information, but remember –come back to it! Don’t ignore the conversation that just happened. It’s not always easy for the giver of the criticism either, and coming back to it together can be helpful for both parties. Following up can help ensure that both people involved feel closure to a potentially uncomfortable situation.
Throughout the entire process, remember to be authentic. Be the you that you are when your guard is down- when you are truly open to advise, words of wisdom, and personal growth. Be the you that wants to succeed in everything you do – both at work and not at work. Being authentic is the foundation for truly being open to criticism.
My final advice: be humble. You’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. But that’s what makes us beautiful… and in that, we’re perfect.