Knowing how to take negative feedback is one of those life skills no one teaches you, but that you need to know.
Everyone likes to be told they’re wonderful. No one likes to be told they’re not.
Now that we’ve got that part out of the way, let’s talk about criticism. Specifically, criticism at work. It doesn’t matter who you are, what your background or education is, where you stand on the career ladder or how excellent your performance generally is, you will eventually be on the receiving end of negative feedback. In fact, it’s likely you’ve already suffered through this experience. If not — maybe you’re just starting your first job — rest assured, it’s going to happen.
So why not establish a plan of action for when it does come?
The first thing you need to do is both hard and simple: You must calmly listen to what the person has to say. This means no interrupting with, “But I meant to do X” or “No, you’ve got it wrong!”
The second thing you should do is to thank the person. After all, an honest appraisal of our work is a gift. Only people who really care about us and/or need us to do a good job will go to the trouble of criticizing.
So while you probably won’t feel like it in the moment, smile and say, “Thanks for the feedback. I really appreciate your honesty.” Do, of course, make sure you understand the critique. Ask for clarification and listen carefully.
Congratulations. Now the hard part is over. Take time to recover, if you need it, and then start to think about the criticism you just received. Is it justified? Does it in fact represent an opportunity for improvement? If so, make a plan to improve and start to implement that plan.
Demonstrating you are mature enough to roll with and act on negative feedback will win you the respect of everyone around you. It also makes you better at your job and builds your self-confidence.
P.S.: Sometimes, criticism is meant to hurt, not help. This is the time to stand your ground. Asking that an unfair critique be backed up with data and examples is a good tactic, and often reveals both the weaknesses of the criticism and the motives of the criticizer. Just remain calm and stick to facts.