Taking Criticism Like a Pro

This question arrived from a reader: “My boss says I need to get better at taking criticism.”

Confidence when criticized:

Confidence is a product of knowing what to do next.

Close your eyes and imagine your boss giving you negative feedback. Get deep into those negative feelings. Now bring your best self to the exchange; how does the best you respond?

If you have trouble imagining your best self, imagine how someone you admire might respond.

Suggestions for taking criticism like a pro:

  1. Make it easy for your boss to criticize you. Most bosses don’t enjoy giving negative feedback. Welcome their insights. Assume they have positive intentions until proven otherwise.
  2. Gratitude is your first, planned response. “Thanks for saying that,” reflects confidence in yourself and respect for them.
  3. Avoid immediate push back. Pushing back, on the other hand, calls others to push back harder. It’s adversarial.
  4. Chill out. If you feel emotional, say, “This is hard for me to hear. Do you mind if a take some time to reflect? I’ll get back to you this afternoon.”
  5. Make few statements.
  6. Jot it down. Grab some paper and write it down in your own words. Writing is thinking. Show them and ask, “Do you think I understand what you’re saying?”
  7. Translate negative criticisms into positive behaviors. “I see you want me to _____ (fill in with observable actions).” Is that right?”
  8. Ask, “How will you know when I make improvements?”
  9. ???

An alternative:

Take control. Don’t wait for the boss to come to you, go to them. You might approach the boss once a quarter and say, “Do you see me doing things that hinder my performance or advancement?” Have paper and pen in hand.

Follow up later by getting feedback on your action plan.

What are the best ways to take criticism?