How to Receive Constructive Criticism Gracefully

While no one loves to receive negative feedback, constructive criticism when provided in a thoughtful and sincere manner, can be an excellent opportunity to improve skills and behaviors. As a sensitive person, I am not always the best at receiving criticism. I find I am usually my own worst critic and can mull over negative feedback for days. Here are some of the strategies that help me stay calm and collected when receiving criticism, and help me be easier on myself after receiving feedback:

  1. Ask for regular feedback: I find if I’m only getting feedback at my annual performance review I feel a lot more pressure to perform well. By asking my supervisor or colleagues for incremental feedback on specific projects and responsibilities as they come up I am able to make adjustments as I move forward. This also helps me go into the bigger performance reviews with a general idea of my areas for improvement, and makes me less defensive and anxious.
  2. Ask for advice. When someone gives me constructive criticism, it is helpful to turn the tables to ask how they would recommend handling things differently. This gives me clarity about what I did do well, as well as specific feedback on what I could change.
  3. Check in with the “serenity prayer.” I find this saying is a good way to reflect on negative feedback. If I find I’m being hard on myself about something in the past, I can ask myself if the feedback is something I can change or whether it is out of my control. While I can change my behaviors and approaches for the future, beating myself up about something in the past will not change it.
  4. Don’t take things personally. Similar to my last strategy, it is important to reflect whether the criticism is of my personal identity or values, or if it is focused on my work or how I behave. By separating my beliefs about myself from my work behaviors, it’s easier to not feel personally attacked by criticism. It also helps me recognize that the person giving the feedback wants me to have the skills and knowledge to improve, and is rooting for my success.
  5. Make an effort to do better. Nobody is perfect, and so once I have received criticism and clarified advice for change, the most import thing to do is to move forward by not making the same mistake again. Most organizations are looking for improvement and effort, not perfection. By being a hard worker and utilizing feedback, I can show my supervisors that I take my role seriously and value any feedback as an opportunity for growth.

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By Emily Merritt
Emily Merritt Career Consultant, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Emily Merritt