Did somebody just say the words “constructive criticism”? Great, just what I need—someone to tell me how to do my job, like I don’t know how to flawlessly execute on my job. Well, maybe not flawlessly, but I think I know what I’m doing thank you very much.
This is how many people react when they hear the term constructive criticism. And it makes sense, as most of us don’t like to have someone telling us how we did something wrong or how we can do better. We like to feel like we are good at the things we choose to do unless, of course, we are trying something new. We take a certain amount of pride in how we do our various jobs and don’t like to have our shortcomings pointed out to us.
Before we get too worked up, let’s take a look at what constructive criticism is and how we can utilize it to help us improve at work or wherever we want to. we will learn that constructive criticism can be used to our advantage.
What Is Constructive Criticism?
First and foremost, it would be helpful to make sure we have a good understanding of what constructive criticism is.
When we hear the word “criticism,” our minds typically think negatively and hostile—like one person is standing over another person telling them that the way they are doing something is all wrong. And that is being critical.
However, this is not the intent of constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is a helpful way of providing feedback that provides specific and actionable suggestions. Instead of one person acting like a manager giving a team member general non-specific advice, constructive criticism is specific to the actions and situation. Given properly, it provides specific and clear recommendations on how to make changes and improvements that will lead to a more positive outcome in a given situation.
Accepting Constructive Criticism
As we just read, constructive criticism is provided to help someone improve in one manner or another. It’s not negative generalities or complaining, it’s specific actionable input provided with the intent of helping someone improve on something they’ve done so they get more desirable results the next time.
This is exactly the context in which you should accept constructive criticism. It is meant to help you improve. Anyone who is interested in getting better and better at their job or craft should welcome it.
Think about a time when you got a big win at work or were part of a team that scored a big win. What an incredible feeling! Now, think about a time when a big project crashed and burned at work, or you didn’t land a huge new client, or your team played poorly and lost a big game—not a good feeling.
The way you handle these losses and learn from them to get better and score more “wins” is just like receiving constructive criticism. Learn from what went wrong to make things go right more often.
How to Handle Constructive Criticism
Now that we have a clear idea of what constructive criticism is, let’s look at the best ways to handle constructive criticism.
1. Stop Your Initial Reaction
When you see that some criticism is about to come your way, recognize it. Make yourself see what’s about to happen and tell yourself you will not react.
The key here is stopping any sort of reaction you are going to have when your brain realizes what’s about to happen. The challenge is that our first reaction is not generally a good one, and we don’t want to wear an initial expression that comes off as highly defensive or angry.
2. Don’t Take It Personally
I’m so happy I fully embrace and believe in the “don’t take anything personally” mentality. It’s important to remember that nobody is doing something to you specifically. They are sharing their personal experience and insights from what they’ve learned and seen. This does not make it universally right, it’s simply the way they’ve experienced it. And we all have different experiences that make each of our points of view unique. It’s not about you, it’s about the situation. Don’t take it personally.
3. Remember the Benefit
This is a good thing to do when your first initial reaction of “no” comes into your mind. Receiving constructive criticism is a way to help yourself improve. Remember that you don’t have to digest and implement every single suggestion word for word. Take the parts that resonate with you and use them the next time a similar situation comes around. This is how we learn and grow.
4. Listen to Understand
Active listening is very important here. Make sure that you are paying full attention to the speaker’s words and body language. You are attempting to understand completely so you are able to truly process the feedback and utilize it down the road. Keep your eyes and ears on the speaker and be present in the moment of receiving the feedback.
5. Be Thankful
It’s not easy to be thankful when someone is telling you how you could have done something better. This is where you put on your “big person pants” and tell them, “thank you for taking the time to share the feedback.”.
If you think about it, they most likely want the best for you. Why else would they be taking the time to share their insights and input with you? If they didn’t care or have a vested interest, why would they take the time? Exactly. Remember this when saying thank you.
6. Ask Questions to Understand Fully
This is where you want to ask clarifying questions to make sure you are fully understanding what the person is saying to you. Make sure you are on the same page as what they are telling you. If you don’t take the time to ask questions to clear up any confusion, then, in the long run, this feedback won’t be of much value to you.
Using Criticisms to Improve
Now, let’s take a look at how constructive criticism helps us improve, as we’ve read that reviewing when things don’t go right and analyzing why they didn’t go right help us figure out ways to change what we did to gain better results next time.
1. Feedback Is Always Helpful
The first way you can use constructive criticism to improve is by acknowledging that feedback is always helpful. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all feedback is beneficial to you. It just means that it’s helpful.
You may disagree wholeheartedly on part of the feedback you receive, and that’s fine. The main thing to remember is that it’s always helpful. Gathering data, reviewing, and listening to others help you look at situations from an angle different than your own.
Speaking of which…
2. You Get Another Point of View
A great thing about listening to someone provide constructive criticism to you is that you get another point of view. Too many times we base what we think we should do on only our own perceptions of something. It’s very possible to be so close to something that you don’t truly see it in an objective light.
I know from back when I was an artist, I could get very locked into a certain project or painting. When I finally would take a break and ask someone else what they thought, many times they pointed out things I’d never noticed or thought of. The same concept applies here.
3. It Shows You Are Worth It
When someone takes the time to provide constructive criticism to you, it shows that they care and feel like you are worth it. They wouldn’t take the time if they didn’t think it would matter or that you weren’t worth it. This is something to think about the next time your manager wants to offer you some insight or advice.
4. It Helps You Improve
If you are willing to truly listen to constructive criticism, it can help you improve greatly. I think about a wide variety of times when I’ve gotten feedback and constructive criticism. I am known to invite it.
I look at it like this—we are all on the same team (whether that’s an actual team or work team) and trying to work towards the same goal. What can I do better that can help us collectively win as a team? I like to think that I’m pretty good at what I do. I also know that I can always get better. Help me to help you, which helps us both.
5. It Can Inspire You
Finally, constructive criticism can inspire you. Sometimes, the person providing you feedback will make you see something you never saw about yourself. This is how another point of view can be so valuable. This can be incredibly eye-opening and sometimes be even one of those “Aha!” moments.
We’ve looked at what constructive criticism is and how to accept it. We’ve seen how if we allow ourselves to listen and accept the feedback, it can incredibly valuable to our growth and improvement. Constructive criticism can help us get better and better at what we do. Not any less important, we’ve discovered how to take constructive criticism like a champ.
Remember, getting feedback from others is critical to our growth in many areas of our life. Use constructive criticism to improve yourself.
More About Constructive Criticism
Featured photo credit: Mimi Thian via unsplash.com