When you put your heart and soul into something or put yourself out there, there’s nothing more stinging than someone immediately saying something negative about it. It’s only human to become defensive if someone speaks badly or offers tough feedback on something you’ve worked hard at or on, but the fear of receiving criticism shouldn’t stop you embarking on the path at all.
The greatest of self-confidence stories involve strong women being told that they couldn’t or shouldn’t do something… and going ahead to achieve it anyway. But how to graciously receive criticism and actually work with it to improve yourself? Let me help you out.
Acknowledge Your First Reaction
How do you react when you first receive criticism?
Do you get butterflies in your tummy?
Do you smile graciously even though you want to cry?
Do you become defensive and immediately start trying to make excuses?
Do you storm off?
All are common reactions to criticism, but often leave us feeling worse than it needs to.
Next time you receive criticism (constructive or otherwise), take note of your immediate feeling and reaction. Reflect on how this could be adapted to make you feel better. What does confidence look like in these situations to you? Even if you have to smile when you don’t feel like it and admit that it hurts to receive criticism, promise that you’ll take it into account as soon as you’re able to. Stop, and remind yourself of the lessons you can learn here. One of the most telling signs of confidence in women is that they’re able to pause and consider how to act next.
Once you’ve been able to calm yourself and collect your thoughts, now’s the time to really take in what’s being said. Listen closely without interruption, and then repeat back the key points you understand. If there’s any potential misunderstandings over vocabulary or purpose, cover them off and ask questions; after all, it may be that the person giving the criticism is looking for something you can’t offer, or don’t intend to offer, or hadn’t considered before.
Avoid questioning or critiquing the feedback. Just take it all in and remember: the person giving the criticism may be feeling as awkward providing it as you are receiving it!
Deconstruct The Feedback
Bear in mind: this doesn’t have to happen at the time you listen to the critique, or even with the person there. Wait until you’re feeling grounded. Go through the criticism and, if possible, ask questions. If not, no problem – work through it and deconstruct it. Consider the following points:
- Are there examples given where situations could be dealt with better?
- Is this an isolated issue/a one-time error, or has it happened more than once?
- Are there proposed solutions given in the criticism, and if so, are you comfortable adopting them – or can they be adapted for you to take on?
- Are there solutions you can think of to resolve any issues?
- Are the issues raised in the criticism worth you working on? Can they be worked on? Are they in your control?
Know When To Say No
If there’s nothing constructive in the criticism, you can disregard it. Negative feedback with no purpose other than do harm is not something you have time for, nor something you should stand for. If there’s genuinely content within it you can use to improve, do so – but if not, and if the person providing it is unable to give tangible true examples, forget it.
Keep Tabs Moving Forward
You may feel yourself falling back into old habits as you move forward with your life, and that’s only human! Acknowledge this when it happens and try to improve it next time around. You’re not perfect, and you’re learning all the time, but it’s important not to lose sight of the tools provided to you to help you get better.
Constructive criticism can be a gift and give you new perspectives you’d never have considered yourself. Use it as an opportunity rather than a slight, and you’ll be able to keep growing into the fabulous new you you deserve to be.