As we know, in any collection of people there will undoubtedly be differences. Opinion, behaviour, attitude, communication, you name it. Why we’re surprised when tensions rise is bemusing – it’s inevitable.
Criticism and feedback comes to us in many forms, in many places, often merely perceived as opposed to actual, unless specified otherwise. Your mother-in-law’s seemingly loaded comment and your boss’s opening spiel in a monthly 1-2-1 are both examples, but come from very different places, and can be received in an even huger variety of ways.
Constructive criticism is an important ingredient for personal and professional development and for strengthening relationships. We don’t always have the opportunity for such, but when we do, being receptive to feedback is essential.
However. It can hurt. We all say we want feedback, but what we truly want is to be liked, to be loved, to fit in, to have those around us, whether family or colleagues, think we’re awesome. Criticism, constructive or otherwise, lets us know that we still have some work to do. It can bruise our feeling of self-worth, yet we must embrace feedback if we are to ‘improve’.
Keep these steps in mind the next time someone tries to give you some helpful feedback.
- Listen actively. While receiving feedback, maintain good eye contact and keep your body language open. Ask clarifying questions so that you come away with a clear understanding of what they’re really saying.
- Say thank you. Your ‘clarifying questions’ may subconsciously slip into a spirited defence. The problem is that even if you’re right—even if the feedback is wrong or off-base—defending yourself sends the signal to the giver that you are unreceptive. There is only one appropriate response to constructive criticism and that is, “Thank you.”
- Evaluate slowly. Chew on it for a day or so. Is it something you already knew? Does the giver have expertise or credibility to make their observation?
- Be mindful. Work on developing higher levels of awareness around the problem areas. Look for opportunities to stop doing or start doing critiqued behaviours. If you feel the criticism was justified and you are better off for it, don’t forget to close the loop and share your progress with the feedback giver.
Positive feedback feels good and is important for self-evaluation, but constructive criticism can be invaluable, wherever you are.