I have heard so many things over the years, especially in professional settings, about how to take and how to give criticism and a lot of it does contradict each other.
Criticism impacts every person differently and how they choose to use the criticism is up to themselves.
However, there are 10 things I have learned during my professional career about how to approach and take criticism from others and I hope you find this advice helpful!
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1) Understand that criticism is a way to grow
Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.
Meaning that, you may not be aware that there is a gap in your knowledge or skills until someone informs you of it. And often that information can come in the form of criticism.
Understanding that this new information about something you are lacking in isn’t an insult but actually a way for you to grow is hands down the best way to take criticism.
Unfortunately not every time someone critiques you will be coming from a place of positive intentions. But in general it is best to try and truly listen to what someone is critiquing you on and how you can take that new information and use it for professional or personal growth.
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2) Accept that others opinions do not define you
Yes, you should try to grow from criticism whenever possible but you also need to remember that what others think of you does not define you or your worth.
Even if someone has pure intentions to help you improve, what they believe may not be something you want to change or it may even hurt you to try and change a behavior in to align with what others are critiquing about you.
So it is okay to smile, nod, and then not act upon the criticism of others. And it’s important to remember during the criticism that no matter how much you look up to the person that they do not decide who you are or what you are worth. YOU define yourself and YOU determine your value.
3) Verbally acknowledge the criticism
It is especially important in professional settings to verbally acknowledge criticism.
That does not mean agreeing with it or promising any sort of change. It simply means to use statements out loud that ensures that someone, like your boss or a client, hears that you are understanding and listening to them.
It can be as simple as saying “I hear and understand your feedback, thank you”. Or any other wording that conveys in an unemotional way that you are taking their feedback in a calm and professional manner.
If the criticism comes from someone you want to impress you can even write a thank you card to ensure they know you appreciate their mentorship.
4) Don’t be afraid to admit if you make a mistake
Often criticism is the result of an error you made. That can be when you already knew you made a mistake or maybe you didn’t know until the criticism already started.
But once you know that the mistake was on your end then own up to it.
Taking ownership of your mistakes is important in personal and professional settings and it will allow for the constructive criticism that will follow to be more positive and helpful if the individual providing it knows that you are owning up and taking responsibility.
5) You don’t always have to be devils advocate
This tip is for anyone who is on the stubborn side. I have seen this plenty of times in both my personal life and at work where someone is so opposed to criticism of themselves or others that they feel it is necessary to combat the criticism no matter what.
That mentality of always having to play devils advocate and always having to fight criticism will never help you. Even if you truly disagree with what your boss or family member is saying you have to have the strength to realize that most of the time it’s not worth turning a conversation into a fight.
Having the mental strength to not fight but rather acknowledge and move on from criticism will help you in the long run.
6) Realize that you’re doing something worth critiquing
People (well most) don’t critique people for no reason. They either critique because they care about you and want you to grow either personally or professionally.
OR they harbor some form of jealousy for what you’re doing and that is what this tip is about.
Sometimes people truly do critique because they are cynical and jealous and that criticism does not need to be addressed but you also can’t take it personally. Just remember that what you are doing is important enough that others feel it is necessary to criticize you.
7) Realize that sometimes a response is not needed
There is a difference between acknowledging and responding. You can acknowledge feedback without responding to the actual feedback because sometimes criticism doesn’t need to be a drawn out conversation.
Also, sometimes criticism is not coming from a pure and genuine place but remember you don’t need to play devils advocate.
It may also be a very small criticism that does not need to become a bigger “issue” than it already is. Just take the criticism and choose to do with it what you want internally.
8) Seek out positive, constructive criticism
This is incredibly important if you are in a career path that you really want to grow in.
Not every boss or mentor has a personality that will offer unprompted criticism so you may need to ask them for it and that’s great! Asking for performance feedback can be very vital for you improving and growing. No good boss would ever be mad about you wanting to learn and grow so set up a meeting if you don’t already have performance evaluations and ask for any constructive feedback.
You may also find yourself in a situation where you have a super kind hearted boss who doesn’t like to give any “negative” feedback. You may be able to explain to them that even though you love and cherish their praise you also would love to hear how you can improve.
If they are unable to provide you with that feedback then don’t be afraid to ask others for it.
9) Learn to separate personal and progressive criticism
This is a tip that can really help you stay sane but can also take a while to achieve this.
Learning to separate between personal criticism and progressive criticism will help you a lot in your life.
Personal criticism is often negative, it is critiquing important aspects of your personality and not something you normally would want to change. Usually personal criticism is just reflecting someone else’s personality preferences. Versus progressive criticism which focuses on helping you progress towards your goals and dreams. Usually progressive criticism is positive.
However, there is a lot of criticism that can be a bit of a gray area between the two but the longer you work towards differentiating the two the better you will get at it.
Sometimes you will need to truly focus on the tone of voice and body language to determine if criticism is personal or progressive.
10) Don’t hesitate to ask questions
The final tip I have is to never be afraid to ask questions when someone is criticizing you.
That could mean asking for clarification or it could mean asking for additional information to help you improve. Either way, the criticism is about you so if you have questions then don’t be afraid to speak up and ask them.
For more professional development advice then check out:
For more personal development advice then check out: