Not everyone has skin as thick as animal hide. As much as the evidence points to the fact that feedback at work is important and valued, it’s also true that many may not quite know how to take criticism.
For example, according to the Randstand Workmonitor survey for Quarter One, 2019, around 51% of Singaporeans recognise the importance of feedback for goal clarity, open communication, and progress. At the same time, 31% reported that they felt vulnerable and uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of criticism and didn’t know how to react to it.
With recend trends in the workplace indicating a gradual shift towards more frequent performance reviews (like Adobe’s Check-In policy), learning how to take criticism is not only critical, it’s essential for career success. Here are four steps to doing just that.
P.S. Master the art of giving and receiving feedback with SSA Academy’s WSQ course on communicating and relating effectively at the workplace!
There’s a saying by the great poet Rumi: “If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror ever be polished?” The first thing to remember when receiving criticism is that it’s fodder for grow. To interpret it as malicious as destructive to your person is not just counterproductive, but it’s shooting yourself in the foot.
True growth is neither sudden, overnight, nor fleeting; it’s a long process of continuous improvement. To this end, feedback is indispensable. There’s no committing to growth without the willingness to receive and act upon criticism.
In her work on the power of growth mindsets, Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck unearthed several interesting insight. Fixed-minded people tended to be more sensitive about how events and information around them reflected on themselves than their growth-minded peers. Since abilities and skills are relatively static in the fixed mindset, these people are more geared towards protecting and defending their abilities.
This explains why for a fixed-minded person, negative feedback can be the be-all and end-all. To them, since there’s not much they can do to change it, they tend to take it with armfuls of finality; it feels more like condemnation than anything else.
On the other hand, growth-minded people frequently take a more proactive stance towards criticism. Instead of asking, “what does this say about me?”, they ask, “how can I use it to get better at what I do?”
The reason why criticism can be so hard to swallow is that a lot of the time, it feels personal. This is especially true when you’ve poured your heart and soul into a particular project, only to have it taken apart limb to limb by your superiors. When work feels like an extension of yourself in this sense, criticisms of it aren’t always easy to take.
The thing to note here, though, is that this separation is crucial when it comes to receiving negative feedback. Be aware that when someone gives you criticism, it’s not you as a person they’re criticising, it’s your role.
The last thing you want to do when you’re receiving criticism is to be reactionary; it only escalate tensions and invites conflict unnecessarily. Additionally, it reflects poorly on your emotional intelligence (of which, according to Daniel Goleman, emotional self-control is an important pillar.)
Most importantly, it automatically removes the willingness to listen on the part of both parties. When emotions are running high, people tend to be less objective about listening to both sides of the story.More than anything else, they just want to be proven right.
If you’re caught off-guard, though, it can prove to be quite a challenge, though. In this case, remove yourself from the conversation for the time being if you must. Give yourself time to cool down and think rationally, instead of jumping to conclusions.