As a human being and as a creative I had many opportunities so far to deal with feedback and criticism. I can tell you it wasn’t always so easy. There were times that I wasn’t comfortable with receiving negative feedback. I would create a big drama in my head and I would take even the negative comments about my work extremely personally. I often had the feeling of being rejected and unworthy.
What I realized was that I was my biggest and harshest critic and I used all the negative comments to confirm what I already thought of myself or my work. Developing my own winning strategy for handling criticism wasn’t easy. Over the years I managed to praise myself more, as well as to stop setting my goals too high and having unrealistic expectations for myself. Most importantly I focused on making feedback an opportunity to grow and improve as an individual and as a professional. But still I understand that criticism can be tough, so here are some thoughts on how you can deal with it in your life and how you can use it as a tool for self-improvement.
Control your first reaction
When we realize that we are about to be given criticism often our first instinct is to react defensively. Try to remain calm, pause for a moment, take a breath and give yourself the time needed to process the critique instead of rushing to respond. Not all criticism is constructive, but not all of it is malicious as well.
Instead of thinking how you will respond, listen closely as the person shares feedback with you. Don’t interrupt them and allow them to share all their thoughts. Cutting them off is a sign of disrespect and sends the message that you are not listening to what they have to say. Apart from that, you are missing important information and you won’t be able to fully understand what they are telling you. It can be helpful to reword and sum up what you think has been said and then ask if it is correct. For example, “You are saying that I should provide you with alternative mood boards for you to choose from, is that right?”. Some criticism will contain valuable insights for positive growth, and some of it will not. Make sure you understand what is the one you are receiving, and either way don’t take it personal. Someone’s thoughts are not an insult on who you are as a person.
Show your appreciation
It might sound trivial or even useless, but letting the person know that you value being given their opinion is important. Keep in mind that they might feel uncomfortable about expressing their thoughts or confronting you with something negative. Even if you don’t agree with what is being said start with showing appreciation and expressing gratitude for the information they are providing.
Be positive and open to suggestions
Suggest the steps you could take to address the points made and be open to their suggestions. To have a successful career and fulfilling relationships in your personal life means being mindful of other people’s perspective and needs. Pay attention to the feedback you are receiving to understand the people around you and to improve the way you can reach them. Receiving criticism with grace means also to be open to change. Communicate with clarity to the person giving the feedback that your priority is to take care of your relationship as well as to look for ways to add value to it.
Constructive criticism is essential to our self-development. It provides us with with useful information, it helps us identify our weaknesses, and that leads us to better relationships. Bring down your defenses, keep a positive attitude and embrace change. You will be rewarded with better results in everything you want to accomplish.