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How to Take Criticism

How to take criticism

Taking criticism is a necessary skill, since we all make mistakes. The problem with criticism is twofold.

Firstly, most people hate taking criticism. It dents their pride and self-confidence. So, they defend their errors rather than learn from them.

The second problem is, that many people word their criticism in such terrible language, that their criticism sounds more like an insult, than guidance.

Irrespective of the fact that many people don't know how to give effective feedback; and many people don't react well to negative feedback (criticism), we all need to learn how to take criticism and use it to our own advantage.

How to take criticism.

Whenever you are confronted with a negative feedback situation, such as a setback, criticism or a defeat, then the proper way to deal with it, is not to get angry, upset or depressed, but rather to ask and answer the following five questions:

  1. Is the negative feedback I have heard true?
  2. How do we know that it is true? What is the specific evidence?
  3. If it is true, then how would it negatively affect our chances of achieving the goal?
  4. In order to avoid the negative effects on the achievement of my goal, what changes do I need to make in either, my understanding of the situation and/or my action plan?
  5. What changes do I need to make, to get back on-track and be on-course to achieve my goal.

These are the five evaluative questions that you need to ask whenever you are facing a negative feedback situation.

For example, imagine someone tells you that you have a spelling mistake on the front cover of your sales proposal, they say to you:

"You have a made a mistake on the front cover of the sales document. You have the word, 'principle' when it should be 'principal'. "

How should you react to that statement? Should you get angry? No. Should you get upset? No. Should you get dispirited and feel foolish? No.

Instead, you should ask these five questions:

1. Is the negative feedback true? Yes.

2. How do we know that it is true? What is the specific evidence? I can see that it is true.

3. If it is true, then how would it negatively affect my chances of achieving the goal?

My goal would be to win the sale, and having a spelling mistake on the cover will make that unlikely.

4. In order to avoid the negative effects on the achievement of my goal, what changes, do I need to make?

I don't really know the difference between principle and principal, so I need to know which spelling is correct.

5. What changes do I need to make, to get back on-track and be on-course to achieve my goal?

I need to change the spelling and reprint the document. And I need to memorise the meaning and spelling of those words.

The same applies if you are told that you swear too much, or that you have put on too much weight, or that your time keeping is poor. Then don't get angry, upset or depressed. Instead, you should ask and answer the same five questions.

Let us take the example of being late for meetings. Please imagine this is a real-life situation.

Someone tells you that you have been late for the last three team meetings, you realise that it is true. Rather than trotting out your excuses for why you were late, and then getting angry with the other person, or upset with yourself and allowing it to dent your self-confidence; instead ask and answer the five questions:

1. Is the negative feedback I have heard true?

Yes, I have been late for the last three meetings.

2. How do we know that it is true? What is the specific evidence?

My memory tells me it is true.

3. If it is true, then how would it negatively affect my chances of achieving the goal of being a highly productive and well-respected member of the team?

What would your answer be?

4. In order to avoid the negative effects on my reputation and personal effectiveness, what changes, do I need to make in either, my understanding of the situation and or my action plan?

What answer would you give?

5. What changes do I need to make, to get back on-track and be on-course to achieve my goal?

How would you answer this?

The Proper Interpretation of Negative Feedback

The way to interpret negative feedback, is as information that informs us that our current actions are not taking us closer to our goals, and that we need to change, adapt, add to, or improve our current plans and actions.

The improper interpretation of negative feedback, is to regard it as a trigger to get angry, upset, defensive, aggressive, disheartened or to lose confidence.

The ability to treat negative feedback correctly, is one of the most important gifts that you can give yourself.

  • Train yourself to see all negative feedback, as information. Responding to it in a progressive manner.
  • Use negative feedback as a source of information, that will inform you how to make the next improvement to your plans and actions.
  • Train yourself to not see all negative events as reasons to lose your temper or confidence.

Once you have trained yourself to see all negative events as constructive feedback information, then your next task is to start to help others to do the same, and to help them to respond positively to negative situations.

Using Negative Feedback Constructively

Whenever you suffer a setback defeat or criticism, ask and answer the following five questions:

1. Is the negative feedback true?

2. How do we know that it is true? What is the evidence?

3. If it is true, then how would it negatively affect me or my organisation?

4. In order to avoid the negative effects, what changes do I need to make in either, my understanding of the situation and/or my action plan?

5. Based on the negative feedback, what changes to my performance do I need to make, to get back on-track?

By using this method, you will be able to take negative feedback and turn it into a progressive way to move forward and achieve your goals.

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