Criticism is a part of professional work, and ultimately it helps us improve. However, it’s not always easy to accept, listen, or react to it. Some criticism is more constructive than others. But how do you know the difference? Below are some tips on how to gracefully accept criticism. The first step is to change your perspective on criticism and see it as a positive. By embracing and welcoming difficult conversations, we can become better professionals and creatives.
Prepare and switch your perspective.
Preparing to accept criticism means understanding and clarifying when you are going to be hearing it. You will be able to accept it in a much better way if you know it’s coming. Before a review or feedback meeting, take a deep breath. Make sure you are practicing your listening skills above all else. Preparation means reminding yourself to listen and ask questions rather than jump to defend the points you disagree with. In addition, you could prepare a few responses in case you freeze up or feel attacked. Something like, “I appreciate this way of looking at it, and thank you for sharing your point of view. I’ll give this some thought and get back to you.”
Switch your perspective around criticism and carry a positive attitude. Criticism is going to help you get better and grow in your career. Take notes and go through them later rather than in the moment.
Don’t confuse yourself with your work.
It’s common to feel “attacked” when hearing feedback which can cause an involuntary fight or flight response. This leads to lashing out and reacting at the moment. One way to combat this is to remind yourself that you are not your work. In the creative world especially, it’s hard to decipher the difference. Know that your work is being criticized, not yourself. Know that there are improvements you can make in your role, but it’s not about you as a person.
Communicate and create an open conversation.
Stay curious. What is the motivation for each piece of feedback? You don’t need to accept feedback if it’s not clear. Ask questions to make sure you understand what’s being said. Then you can reflect and integrate it.
Accept and integrate.
In a professional setting, accepting and integrating the feedback you receive can set you apart in your career. It may work; it may not work. But if you can show up to the next review meeting after doing so and present critical thinking about what you tried, it will lead to more open discussions and improvements. You can even keep a log of the changes you make, so when the situation is later revisited, you have documentation that demonstrates your ability to follow feedback.
Drop the defensiveness (it’s a hard one!)
The most important part about gracefully accepting feedback is to avoid being defensive. By definition, being “defensive” means “used or intended to defend or protect.” Rather than immediately defending your work or way of doing things -- listen and reflect. Then explore a bigger conversation if you disagree. This may be at a later time or date.
Take care of yourself.
Above all, take care of yourself. Your colleagues' comments may take a toll on you, and that’s ok. Go for a walk outside, connect with a friend, journal for a couple of minutes, or think about and express gratitude for what you have in your life. You are more than your work, and it’s important to remember that.
If you need any guidance on getting constructive feedback and incorporating it into your work, Stellapop is here to help.