6 Tips to Handle Criticism

It’s happened to the best of us: After your boss disapproved of your work, you found yourself fighting back tears (or getting angry). It’s a common reaction. But dealing with negative comments without having to reach for a tissue is important. In fact, learning how to accept -- and learn from -- criticism can strengthen relationships and advance your career. Here are some tips on how to deal with any potentially stinging comment:

1. Breathe. Although you may feel yourself getting upset or defensive, take a deep breath. Feel tears starting to well or your temper starting to rise? Step away from the situation. That gives you time to cool off and gain perspective, so you can respond appropriately.

2. Pinpoint the emotions underneath. Ask yourself: What’s the real reason I’m upset? Is it shock? Fear of failure? Identifying the root of your emotions can help separate your feelings from the situation -- so you can process the comment objectively.

3. Consider who’s giving the criticism. If his or her opinion matters, the comment has more weight. Understanding the other person’s viewpoint can help you evaluate your own behavior. But if the person who made the remark doesn’t matter as much to you -- say, a stranger or random coworker -- realize that allowing their critique to bother you gives them power that they don’t deserve.

4. Decide if the comment is valid. It’s easy to ignore your own shortcomings, and there may be some truth in the criticism -- even if you don’t want to admit it. Try looking at the situation from a third-person perspective: Ask yourself how you would advise a friend to handle the same scenario. But if the criticism is off-base, have a discussion with the other person. It may be a misunderstanding or misinterpretation. Or recognize that everyone is entitled to their own opinion -- and move on.

Giving Criticism Effectively
Along with managing your own response, it’s also important to know how to best deliver criticism. Two tips:

  • Consider how the other person is likely able to handle the situation and how important the issue is to you. In some cases -- say, you’re not a fan of the car your sister recently purchased -- it may be better to hold your tongue.
  • When delivering a critique, choose an appropriate time and place to bring it up (a quiet conference room in the office, or a time when your husband’s not distracted). Focus on the facts instead of getting personal, and offer solutions or propose changes that can help you both get on the same page.

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