Being on the receiving end of feedback at your job is both a challenge and an art form.

Especially when it’s negative feedback. A critical remark can seem like an attack, a threat to our livelihoods and a blow to our self-worth all at the same time.

In short, the emotions you feel can be overwhelming, which is why you need a good system to master them.

Step 1 is to resist the impulse to leap in with explanations and justifications. Even if you suspect (or know) that the criticism is off base, it’s important to demonstrate a willingness to understand where it’s coming from. Take a deep breath and just listen for a moment. Try to look at the issue through that person’s eyes. If you need time to reflect, don’t be afraid to ask for it.

The right way to tell your co-workers what they did wrong

Step 2 is for when you’ve thought the matter through and are ready to address those critiques with a rational, problem-solving mindset. Return to that person and ask to talk. You can request clarifying details and specific examples. You can restate the criticism in your own words as a way to be sure you’ve got it straight. After all, you can’t benefit from feedback you don’t understand.

Step 3 is to ask for suggestions on ways to change or improve your work. In fact, if that person’s comments were honest, helpful and constructive, you might ask him or her to supply you with input on an ongoing basis. Offer to do the same in return. It’s an opportunity to grow and to build team spirit at the same time.

What about when feedback is positive? It does happen! Here you’ll want to keep in mind that receiving a compliment with grace is also an art form. So many of us were raised to reject, deflect or even belittle the kind words that are offered to us. Work on changing this habit. Share the credit, if appropriate, and return the praise, if you can.

Also — and this applies to both positive and negative feedback — never forget to smile and say a big, sincere thank you. Feedback is a gift. This person was brave enough, or cared enough, to offer it and that should count for a great deal.