How to Handle Criticism Like a Boss

handling criticism

Really, nobody likes receiving criticism.  There’s no doubt about it – whether it’s justified or not, hearing somebody speak critically of your work, your actions or your decisions stings.

But here’s the thing…  We’re all going to be criticized at some point or another.  So what matters isn’t that the criticism occurred in the first place.  What matters is how you handle it.

If you fly off the handle every time a negative word is spoken about your performance, you’re going to be harshly judged as someone who’s unwilling – or unable – to make improvements.  If you take criticisms too personally, you risk wasting time while you wallow in other people’s commentary.  At the same time, though, if you never take any of the criticisms you receive to heart, you risk missing out on tremendous opportunities for self-improvement.

If that all sounds complicated, it’s because it is.  Learning to handle criticism like a boss takes time, though you can speed up your own improvement in this area by following this step-by-step process:

Step #1 – Acknowledge the criticism

As soon as you’ve received a criticism, the best thing you can do for your personal or professional image is to acknowledge it gracefully.  Even if you’re seething on the inside or close to tears, it’s important that you learn how to give a brief “Thank you for your advice,” in the moment.

Here’s the thing…

Very rarely do people offer criticisms because they want to bring you down.  Even when the criticisms you receive come across as negative attacks, they’re often – if misguidedly – intended to help you improve yourself in some way.

So even if you don’t appreciate the effort, take the time to acknowledge the feedback that’s been given. It’ll go a long way towards improving the rapport you hold with the people in your life, as well as demonstrating that you’re a respectful, thoughtful person who’s capable of self-improvement.

Step #2 – Acknowledge your emotions

That said, just because you take a moment to acknowledge the criticism you’ve received doesn’t mean that you need to bend over backwards to accommodate the person giving you feedback!

The key here is to know how you personally respond to criticism.  If you tend to have a strong emotional reaction – as in the case of anger or weepiness – the best thing you can do is to excuse yourself from the situation until you’re able to calm down and reflect on both the criticism and why it triggered such a strong reaction within you.

If you’ve got a better handle on your emotions than this, you may be able to immediately jump into identifying possible behavioral changes that should be brought about as the result of your criticism.  However, if this isn’t the case, there’s nothing wrong with saying something as simple as, “I hear what you’re saying, but I’d like to take some time to think about your feedback before I give you a response.”

Step #3 – Investigate underlying causes

Once you’ve taken all the time you need to calm down, try to understand where the criticism itself is coming from.  For example:

  • Have you slacked off at communicating your progress to your manager and colleagues to the point where they feel the need to criticize your work performance?
  • Could different elements of your personality (as in the case of a sarcastic sense of humor) have been misinterpreted in a negative light by others?
  • Have you been failing to follow through on commitments you’ve made to others (making their criticisms entirely justified)?

In some cases, the reason for the criticism will be made clear by the person giving the feedback, though this won’t occur in all situations.  Some criticisms will come to you “out of the blue,” meaning that you’ll need to be the one to figure out the cause in order to find a possible solution.

Obviously, there will be some cases where you aren’t able to identify an underlying cause for the criticism you’ve faced, but keep in mind that few people truly “have it out for you.”  Nearly all criticism can be attributed to real or perceived shortcomings, and it’s up to you to figure out where these miscommunications have occurred before your personal or professional reputation suffers.

Step #4 – Develop a response plan

After you’ve identified the reason(s) behind the feedback you’ve received, it’s time to develop a response plan that details the actions you’ll take to prevent the same criticisms in the future.

Fair warning – this isn’t always fun.  If you feel a critical remark was unjustified, it can feel incredibly frustrating to force yourself to come up with a plan of action to prevent future criticisms.

But really, handling criticism like a boss means acting like an adult in these situations.  In nearly all cases, it’s possible to learn something from critical feedback and make changes that improve your life in some way.  If you aren’t willing to undertake this type of self-reflection and self-improvement, you’re going to face nothing but challenges as you continue down your personal or professional journey.

2 thoughts on “How to Handle Criticism Like a Boss

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