How to Take Constructive Criticism

No one likes hearing less-than-positive things about themselves, but if you work at a company that does performance reviews, sooner or later, you'll have to hear about your "opportunities for growth" as well as your shining achievements. If you want to get promoted or get a raise, you'll have to learn to take what you hear and make it work for you.

bag over head 

(Photo Credit: pakorn/freedigitalphotos.net)

Alan Henry at Lifehacker offers the following advice to a reader who wants to take criticism better:

"Criticism from others can be difficult to take, especially if the person delivering the criticism isn't exactly subtle about it. The first thing you need to do is determine whether or not the person delivering the criticism is important to you."

If it's your boss, in other words, you're forced to listen. If it's a friend whose opinion you admire, you may choose to hear. Regardless, once you've decided that it's in your best interests to pay attention to what the person's saying, there are a few things you can do to make it easier to deal with their message.

1. Separate the words from the meaning.

Most people are not great communicators, especially when they have to deliver what they perceive to be bad news. Your boss might sound particularly gruff, when in fact she likes your work on the whole and feels awkward about having to point out an area in which you can improve. Try to focus on the message, not the way it's delivered.

2. Don't be defensive.

Everyone, absolutely everyone, makes mistakes -- every sports hero, every entrepreneur, every political figure, every artist or musician, every single person you admire. Remember that, when the urge to explain and defend comes upon you. You're in excellent company. Don't respond from a place of fear, thinking in the moment that you're the only one who's ever needed to work on some aspect of their performance.

3. Don't feel the need to respond right away.

It's OK to take in the information, think it over, and respond with questions later on. Wait until you're no longer hurt, or angry, or scared. When the initial feeling of, "What do you mean I need to improve?" wears off, you'll be in a much better place to figure out what you need to do.

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