Whether we're willing to admit it or not, most of us are sensitive to criticism about our performance. This is especially true when the criticism is overly negative and doesn't align with our views about ourselves and our work. Although receiving negative feedback at work can be uncomfortable, there are ways to handle it gracefully-- and even use the undesirable feedback as an opportunity for self-improvement.
Below are some tips for dealing with criticism and developing a thicker skin in the process:
- Detach yourself emotionally. Therapists have long used this technique-- called compassionate detachment-- when dealing with clients. This way, they can empathize and offer advice without getting emotionally involved in the situation. When confronted with criticism at work, try removing emotions and instead listening to the feedback with a curious and objective point of view.
- Talk to someone you trust. After getting an earful of criticism from your manager, it's helpful to discuss the situation with someone who is trustworthy-- perhaps a senior colleague. They're likely to offer 'been there, done that' advice that will help you to understand that criticism happens to everyone. On the contrary, hiding in a bathroom stall to have a good cry after receiving discouraging feedback will only serve to make you feel more isolated.
- Request more information. Once you've recovered from the initial blow of being criticized, consider asking for more information about what was discussed. That way, you'll demonstrate that you're taking pro-active steps to improve your performance. Schedule a private meeting to discuss the issues at hand. Consider saying things like, "Could you give me an example of what you meant by....?" or "This is my understanding of what you're asking of me. Is this correct?"
- Learn from it. Even if you feel that the criticism is completely unwarranted, take some time to sit down and truly think about what was said. Surely, mixed somewhere in the negative feedback, you can find a useful piece of information that resonates with you and helps you to improve your performance in the office.
- Remember that it happens to everyone. This can be an extremely hard pill for the perfectionist to swallow: criticism of your performance will happen at some point in your career. Warn your inner perfectionist ahead of time so that she can brace herself for impact. Remember that even the most outstanding employees have setbacks on their road to success.
For more information on how to handle workplace criticism or other helpful advice, visit the Self-Improvement section of our blog.
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