Most of us do our best every day. We all want to feel accepted and appreciated, but it does not always turn out that way. Whatever your work in the world, if you landed here at My Healthy Living Coach.com you are probably committed to living a healthy, meaningful life that includes self-evaluation and growth. And one of the ways we grow personally and professionally is through receiving feedback – even if it is not always fun.
Sometimes criticism can be hard to take. It can make us defensive and angry, or trigger our self-esteem issues. But in the appropriate context and with the right perspective, constructive criticism can be a huge gift that supports our evolution. Here are a few ways to help you handle criticism.
The first step is to know that at some point in your life you will be criticized for something. It is inevitable. Having that awareness will help you be more graceful about receiving it when it comes.
The other part of this is to make sure you are in a receptive space to hear criticism. If someone tries to give you criticism when you are exhausted, hungry, or upset about something, ask if that person can wait until you are in a more appropriate state. If the person actually has your best interest at heart, it will be no problem to schedule a more fitting time to receive their message.
Remember to Breathe
Like any other challenging and uncomfortable aspect of life, staying connected to your breath and body will help you handle criticism with more grace. Think of listening to the criticism like staying in a challenging yoga pose, allowing your deep breath and commitment to presence help you ride it out.
Practice Constructive Listening
Beyond even objectivity, constructive listening will allow you to get the most benefit from the criticism you receive. Listen to the words the person is saying as well as the meaning behind them. What can you learn about your work, this person, and yourself from what you are hearing? You can gain valuable information from any feedback when you listen constructively, even if it is not totally relevant or presented in the best way.
Consider the Source
Who is the person criticizing you? What is that person’s intention for sharing this feedback with you? Is it a co-worker, employer, friend, partner, or child? Is the person sharing the criticism because he or she wants to help you grow, or is it a form of bullying or other attack?
Make Sure You Understand It
Sometimes people have a hard time giving constructive criticism in a way that can be understood. Ask for clarification if you are not exactly sure what a point of criticism means. Ask the person to give specific instances of the behavior in question instead of just vague references. This will help you clarify your challenges and improve your work.
Take Nothing Personally
This is the one that will save your day. We all have our own experiences and motivations. Whether someone’s feedback is constructive or vindictive, desired or unwanted, ultimately it is that one person’s opinion. You can learn from it, but do not let it hurt you. Do not let it affect your sense of self-worth. Some people try to harm others by giving “advice” that is actually judgment, ridicule, or verbal abuse. Know that most of what other people say to you is not actually about you.
If you are certain that the criticism is appropriate, take responsibility for your actions. Apologize if you hurt someone or did not follow through on your word. Even if you did make a mistake, having the integrity to own it will keep that person on your team, and help you discern how to move forward.
Avoid Blame and Excuses
It is so easy to get defensive when we feel criticized, to give a list of excuses of why it was not our fault. But blaming someone else for a mistake or attacking the criticizer will not have the effect you want.
Learn from It
Sometimes we learn from success, but often we learn from failure. Even if you feel a little crushed by criticism, it probably contains some gem that can help you evolve. Pay close attention to the essence of the criticism, and then see how you can integrate that wisdom into your evaluation of your work or relationships. Can you make every bit of constructive criticism a growth opportunity?
Take It With a Grain of Salt
While most criticism can help you grow, sometimes even the most well-meaning criticism may not be applicable to you. And some people’s opinions are just that, opinions. Listen deeply to what people say, but then balance it against your own inner knowing. Ultimately you get to decide whether or not the criticism is valuable to you.
Receiving criticism is never easy. But it is inevitable. And it can be quite valuable for your evolution. Learn to evaluate criticism based on the person giving it and how applicable it is to you. Listen objectively, without getting defensive or taking things personally. You may just find that being shown an imperfection is the best thing that could have happened to you.