Being Grateful For Constructive Criticism
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Before I became a stay-at-home mom, I was required to collect mementos for my annual portfolio, and in return, I received a summative performance review. The review consisted of a 50-plus item inventory of various skills, ranked with an O, C, or N (Outstanding, Competent, or Needs Improvement). I typically received many O’s, and this validated what I already knew as a teacher who tied her performance to her students’ successes. But I couldn’t help but feel disappointed, because I wanted to learn what I didn’t already know—how to become a better teacher. O’s were not a part of that formula.
Not everyone is going to feel the same way. Receiving C’s and N’s may seem like a sign of failure. In my current position, I understand this sentiment all too well. Maybe I’m harder on myself as a parent, maybe I take the criticism too personally, or maybe it’s because I receive a lot of C’s and N’s in my constant performance reviews. There’s crayon on the wall! N. The baby fell off the couch, again! N. I didn’t buy my toddler that toy after his meltdown! C. The worst criticism to take though comes from my husband, who risks his health when he suggests that the kids feed off my mood, so I should try to act calmer. I don’t want to hear that, especially in a moment of high stress. However, this performance review is warranted and necessary to cultivate a positive environment for our children. I must take it, and I must improve myself.
Why Constructive Criticism Is Tough Stuff
Taking criticism is hard. Nobody enjoys hearing about their flaws. Even worse, nobody likes to accept that they have flaws. And no one likes to give it (well, most people). Giving constructive criticism is a respectful skill, and it takes a lot of consideration. Someone who takes the time to think about how to improve your performance and then carefully craft it into a statement intended to cushion your feelings deserves your admiration and attention. In fact, giving negative feedback is so difficult that many people opt out of this necessary aspect of progress. When this happens, job productivity slides, relationships wane, and stay-at-home moms continue to act stressed without anyone putting them in check.
Graciously taking constructive criticism takes strength, too. The natural human reaction is to become defensive or tune out the critic. We are ego-driven and self-reflection can be a nuisance. But the only way to become the best you can be, to grow to your full potential, is through correcting your flaws. Change through criticism takes mental fortitude. We should be grateful for the perspective and chance to improve ourselves!
Take a Positive Approach to Critiques
Instead of taking criticism as a blow to your character or an insult to your work, receiving criticism should be handled with appreciation and humility. No one is perfect, even you. You should embrace any opportunity someone gives you to progress. Your professional and personal growth depend on the feedback you get from others. But this knowledge doesn’t make taking criticism any easier. With some conscious effort, you can learn to control your reactions and change negative feedback into positive lessons.
Step 1: Mind your initial response.
If you get called into your boss’s office or your spouse starts a conversation with, “Honey, I hope you take this the right way…” brace yourself. Immediately decide not to react negatively. Control your facial reactions. Don’t say anything. Sit if you have to and take a few deep breaths. This self-control will help you to think about the feedback you are receiving and will make you more approachable.
Step 2: Listen with intent.
Keep telling yourself, this is for your own good. Listen with purpose and a positive attitude. Remember that it is just as uncomfortable to give criticism as it is to receive it. Also, to make sure that you understand correctly, repeat back what you have heard. If necessary, you can ask for suggestions or guidance. But be careful not to put the other person on the spot. Sometimes, their job is not about providing solutions (unfortunately). You can do this on your own if you need to.
Step 3: Respond graciously and gratefully.
You want to continue to improve, so you want to continue to receive feedback. Forge open and respectful relationships by showing your appreciation. Thank the person, and provide feedback of your own. Tell them that without their insight, you wouldn’t have this opportunity to grow.
Step 4: Look for solutions and rectify problems.
You may need further guidance from your boss or spouse, but you can also find advice and information on the Internet, in books, and from other trusted sources. You might find it helpful to pay attention to patterns in your work or behavior that point to the problem. Really dig deep and make a plan to change the pattern. It might be a simple fix or a larger problem. Regardless, you have plenty of room to improve and reason to do so.
- Melissa Lavery, M.S.
Lindsay, N. (2012, November 7). Taking Constructive Criticism Like a Champ. Retrieved March 19, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/dailymuse/2012/11/07/taking-constructive-criticism-like-a-champ/
Share, J. (2011, October 25). 7 Reasons Constructive Criticism Hits Hard (and Well) | JobMob. Retrieved March 19, 2015, from https://jobmob.co.il/blog/constructive-criticism-reasons/