I have had my fair share of criticism, and I can tell you only about 10% was actually meant to be constructive. When I was younger, by which I mean a teenager and through my early twenties, I would ignore criticism. I would say that people were jealous, or didn’t understand. I would tell myself I didn’t care ‘because I was better than them’. It was only after the age of 25 when I realised that listening to criticism could prove a powerful tool, even if I didn’t agree with what was being said.
Why criticism can be a step to success
One aspect of my job as a strategist is to evaluate current processes to see what works and what does not. This is called monitoring and evaluation. Criticism, I believe, works as society’s own monitoring and evaluation system. In the same way that businesses and organisations want to continually improve, we humans also want to get better. So what better way to improve than through the eyes of those people we work with, eat with, laugh with, argue with, grow up with, love with?
However, self improvement from criticism is not easy. Us humans are wired to protect ourselves and thats when our defence mechanisms kick in. How many times have you worked all night on a project, believing you have created a masterpiece, only for your boss to provide you with some ‘constructive criticism’? I know the feeling well. You assume the forced smile and pretend to listen, whilst mentally castrating them. You stayed up all night doing this. Do they not value you? Can they not praise you on your hard work?
And this is your first mistake. You have let your emotions take control. But I won’t let you make any more mistakes my friend. As someone who has been criticised by colleagues, family, friends and strangers (don’t let this cloud your opinion of me) I can say I have learnt a full proof way to not only deal with criticism, but use it to my advantage. Let me teach you now.
6 steps to successfully dealing with criticism
These are my six steps that I developed through years of self improvement.
1. Be open minded
As I mentioned before, becoming defensive is usually our first response to criticism. Now, I can’t tell you a magic formula to remove that emotion, but I can explain how I gained control over it. Once I saw a pattern of criticism, touching on the same themes, I began to ask myself whether they didn’t maybe have a point. I made the decision that, however painful it may be, I would think over this criticism and be open to it. I would give this criticism a chance.
2. Consider the motive
You need to ask yourself why is this person telling me this? What is their motive? In a work situation your manager may genuinely want you to do better next time, however, it is also possible that a colleague is trying to lower your confidence. This will of course depend on your workplace. Use your judgement.
3. Consider the person
Who is this person to you? The answer to that will influence how you use the criticism. Let me explain. If it is your mother, or best friend, this will often be criticism that is worth deeply considering. Why would people that love you want to hurt your feelings if they didn’t think it was necessary? Another example is a new boss, or project lead that you need to impress. Let’s say that they are criticising very specific aspects of your work. Aspects that you know your previous boss valued. Do not get defensive. Understand that this is how THIS boss likes work to be performed. Understand that it is in your BEST INTEREST to take on board their criticism in order to succeed with them.
4. Could they be right?
Whether the criticism comes from someone who loves you, or whether acting on criticism will get you ahead in your career – what if the criticism is actually right?! Let me give you a personal example, for years I let my anger get the better of me. I would ignore family, friends and boyfriends telling me I had not dealt with situations well. I believed it was just how my brain worked. Actually it would be more accurate to say I told myself I could not be fixed as it was easier than trying. However, it turned out they were all right. Because I listened to the criticism I started to catch myself before adopting old habits. I developed mechanisms for how to deal with my emotions; I benefitted, and even better, so did everyone around me.
5. Embrace yourself
Through listening and considering all criticism thrown my way, it also massively increased my self confidence. I was able to weed out the areas I needed/wanted to improve upon versus what personality traits were actually just me! Because I have consciously worked on self improvement, I have the confidence to stick up for myself when a core part of me is being slagged off. I was recently criticised for being ‘bossy’. I hate this word – see video below NOW.
I am confident. I am a leader. I make things happen. I will not apologise for that.
6. Put this into action
So you have read my tools to channeling criticism into success. But how do YOU do that? Take it step by step -literally with step 1 above! Start by taking a moment to consider your last argument with your partner, parent or friend. What was their criticism of you? Was there a way you acted that could have led them to believe this? How did your actions contribute (even if you do not believe you were to blame)? What mood were they in? What mood were you in? Could this have contributed? It is this type of self reflection and line of questioning that can help to ease you into the open mind I discussed in step one.
Self development equals success
If you practice this every time you feel criticised then I promise you that you will gain:
- self improvement
- Improved relationships
- Control over your emotions
- Career options
If you are working on self improvement you may like my article on getting control over your life and your eating.