Before getting defensive, try treating feedback as a gift.
Receiving criticism can sometimes be a messy situation, especially when it’s unexpected, harsh or given when others are present.
You might feel shocked, angry or even embarrassed by the comments. But before getting defensive, try switching your mind-set and treating the feedback as a gift, rather than criticism. Here’s how.
Who gave the feedback? First, consider who is providing you with the criticism. Is it your manager, a mentor, your co-worker, someone who reports to you? Is it someone you respect or trust?
People are human and that means we aren’t perfect beings. Sure, their approach might have been a bit clunky or inappropriate. But before getting angry, open your mind to the possibility that they were just trying to be helpful.
Most people don’t want to see others fail. Just the opposite. Have you ever sat through a presentation where the speaker was struggling — and silently tried to will him or her to do better? It’s human nature to want to help. That’s probably why so many people feel the need to provide unsolicited advice to new graduates, pregnant women, new parents and even new homeowners.
We like helping others succeed and don’t want to see people struggle with the same issues we had to overcome ourselves. So no matter how harsh the criticism, try to keep an open heart that maybe, just maybe, the person is simply trying to be helpful.
What was the feedback about? The next step is to think about what the person said. How would you categorize the criticism? Is it about your preparation, the content or quality of your work, the speed, the results (or lack thereof)? Was it about your behavior, actions/inactions or style? Trying to categorize the feedback will help remove some of the emotions you might be feeling from the comments.
Giving feedback can be difficult for many people, especially introverts, so seek to understand the content of what they said and ask clarifying questions. Good phrases to use when trying to clarify the comment include “Help me understand …” and “When you say (insert comment here), are you referring to …”
How could you use the feedback? Finally, consider how you could turn their comments into improvement actions. Sure, you might have been surprised by the criticism, especially if it wasn’t something you were expecting to hear. But what would happen if you treat this as a unique chance to learn about yourself — or about how someone else perceives the situation?
It isn’t a perfect world, and feedback doesn’t always come across as we might have hoped. Instead of being angry or suspicious about the criticism, switch your mind-set by recognizing you’ve potentially been given a golden nugget of insight. How might you use this information? Given the feedback, what actions could you take?
If you keep your heart and mind open, you might realize that what you first thought of as criticism is actually a very special gift that will help you grow and develop.
Lisa Quast is a certified executive coach, and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at email@example.com.