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How to take criticism in order to become better?

A young man explains something to his work colleague while working on a computer

The word "feedback" has for good entered the Polish language used in corporations. You receive feedback after an interview, then, at the end of trial period, and finally, during your employment – at the meetings summarising year of half-year of your work. How do you feel when you receive feedback? The truth is that the majority does not like to be judged. According to a survey, more than a half of the respondents consider the received feedback as untrue or unreliable, and more than 1/4 claim that it is the worst part of their professional life. Of course, the issue here are not the flattering opinions, as probably you deal with them quite well, but the problem is in the less positive ones.

Why taking somebody else's opinion on your work is so difficult? Because the whole process increases the tension, which arises between two human needs: learning and development and unconditional acceptance. An opinion of a stranger can upset you in three dimensions:

Sensor of truth: You feel wronged, since you think that the opinion is missed and untrue. As simple as that.

Sensor of relation: In this case "activation" of the sensor depends on a person who gives an opinion. It is difficult to distinguish emotions relating to the very content and its addresser.

Sensor of identity: It depends on your relation with yourself. If criticism (fair or not) disturbs your feeling of identity, for sure you will not draw anything positive from it, and it will only lead to irritation and will decrease your motivation.

All those reactions are normal, but it is possible to learn how to control them in a way allowing us to look objectively on opinions of others and how to draw only positive things from them, which will help us in further development of our career. Below you will find 6 pieces of advice which you can use.

  1. Recognise your inclinations. If you think about the whole process of taking criticism in your private and professional life, for sure you will notice a certain pattern. Maybe by nature you adopt aggressive or submissive posture? Or maybe at first you reject everything you just heard, and after some time, after rethinking everything, you accept the other person's argument? It is worth to devote several minutes to such reflections, since they can turn out to be very valuable and will help you to deal with your reactions, and as a consequence, you will learn a skill how to separate objective reactions form those overly emotional.
  2. Separate a message form addresser. If the criticism is constructive, it should not matter for you who is giving feedback. Remember, sometimes you can get valuable opinions form the most disliked colleague. Upon listening to harsh words take a few deep breaths, chase away bad thoughts and start thinking about them when emotions subside.
  3. Process the message. Not always you know right away whether the received information is valuable or not. Give yourself a moment to think about it and to assess its significance. If you think that you need it, ask the message addresser what precisely they meant and if they have any instructions for you.
  4. Ask for other people's opinions. Feedback will have stronger fire-power if you ask for it yourself. You do not need to wait for annual meetings with your supervisor. Leave it to yourself and ask about one thing you could improve in your everyday work. You will be surprised how many positive conclusions you will be able to draw from such conversations. According to researches, people who ask for an opinion are considered as better workers.
  5. If you still happen to have doubts on the significance of the opinion, do not be afraid to experiment. Think about the risk and chances and if the first one is small, bring into effect the suggestion. Simply like that, just to try it. If it turns out to be helpful, then great. If not, you can consider the experiment as completed and simply forget about it.
  6. Remember, your professional development is at stake. The goal of some feedbacks is to evaluate an employee and some are to instruct them. We need both of them in order to develop in our professional life. If you can transform each criticism into the possibility of development, you can consider it as a great success.

Taking criticism is hard for everyone, regardless of seniority or position. There are of course people who bear criticism slightly better, and it is worth to work on oneself in order to become such a person. Do not forget, however, that you are the strongest driving force of your success.

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