The Bitterness of Criticism


There are some people who feel it is their job to be critical of their co-workers and their efforts.  When I come across someone who is like this I often wonder what has caused them to be this way.  Was it a  hard parent who was always critical of them?  Do they really think they are superior to others? Or are they really suffering from low self-esteem?

Whatever the reason, when you are on the receiving end of someone’s criticism of you or your work, it can be shocking, hurtful and make you angry.

Corrective criticism is hard to accept, but is good. Critical criticism can be destructive at work.  Below are five good steps to learn and put into action the next time you encounter any criticism at work.

1. Remain calm, this can be hard especially if you are taken by surprise.  By remaining calm you are defusing any escalation of the situation.  Also by remaining calm you can think clearer.  Try to keep good eye contact, listen to what is being said and let the person finish before you speak.

2. When they have finished, acknowledge that you have heard them.  You can “thank” them for what they have said, as they may think they are being helpful. If they are being critical and there is no value to what they have said, by thanking them you can be done with it and not take it any further.

3. There are negative critical people. There also are people we work with that need to give criticism and they may be good at it or they may not be, so make sure you follow “step 4 below before you react.”

4. Take time to think about what was said. Let your mind filter the comment.  Usually we see things differently once we are fully able to process it.  As noted above, if there is something worthwhile in the criticism you do really want to find what it is, especially if it is about your work.  If you react immediately because of emotion you may make more of the situation than what was intended.

5. Take good criticism to heart and view it as a learning experience.  Remove any of the “sharp edges” of what was said and look for the  positive and how you may benefit from it. It is about finding the value, I call it the “chicken and bones time” This is when you dissect what was said, eat the meat (value), and throw away the bones (the initial bite of the negative criticism).   (Or any negatives).

These five steps sound easy, but we all know that it is very hard when we face criticism.  If you follow these steps you will be able to handle it in a much better way.

Good criticism may take time to process, but has value.  Negative criticism needs to be tossed aside so you can move ahead.

One thing you can remember when dealing with criticism is that old saying “when you are given lemons, make lemonade.”  Rise above it and find the positive.

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