Why you must listen to criticism


How well do you deal with criticism? You’ve been working hard and doing your best but someone still thinks it’s necessary to offer you some words of advice about the work you’ve just done. Not a thank you; no acknowledgement of your effort; just some caustic words about why your work is less than perfect. Makes you feel a little unloved doesn’t it?

Perhaps your critic lacked sensitivity? Perhaps he or she failed to appreciate the value you’ve been adding to whatever you were doing at the time? Either way it’s natural if you feel a little hurt when all people can do is point to something they believe is wrong or incomplete. If it doesn’t actually hurt, certainly it can be irritating. It can also seem overly harsh at times.

The problem when hearing criticism is that our defensive barriers tend to go up immediately. And once we’re on the defensive we don’t tend to listen to the feedback we’re getting. We just concentrate on how we’ll respond in order to dismiss whatever’s being said.

This is unfortunate because if we did listen and reflect on what is being said, it’s just possible that our critic may actually have a valid point.

The importance of criticism is that it provides us with valuable feedback. And how we react to any feedback depends on our attitude and how we choose to look at it. We can get all hurt and defensive or we can choose to give our critic the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are trying to be constructive.

In other words we can embrace criticism positively and seek to use it to our own advantage. Certainly this is the mature and grown up way of dealing with any criticism we receive.

We must recognise that none of us are perfect and we’re all prone to making the occasional mistake. That’s human nature. However if our aim is to succeed then we have to become masters of our chosen craft or profession. We have to be very good at whatever we’ve chosen to do if we’re going to stand out in the crowd. In fact we have to be the best.

Being the best requires the constant honing of our skills. That means we must learn from our mistakes and any inability that might prevent us from delivering the results required of us.

Learning is a lifelong process and we should be constantly practising and developing our skills and improving on the results we deliver. In order to do that then we must learn from our mistakes. Some mistakes will be obvious to us but sometimes we’ll fail to recognise them. Fortunately others won’t.

The underlying point here is that criticism is simply feedback and feedback is essential if we are to improve our skills and become masters of our craft or profession. That’s why it’s important to listen. If we know where we fall short then we can do something about it.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of criticism, the first thing to do is to remind yourself that to feel hurt is quite natural. That’s simply an emotional response to a negative situation. However don’t take anything personally. Criticism is rarely groundless, though it’s often exaggerated.

Give your critic the benefit of the doubt and assume their intention is simply to provide you with some valuable feedback. Welcome that feedback. Don’t interrupt your critic with excuses. That will just make you look defensive. Don’t glower at them either because you might stop them sharing that crucial insight with you.

The truth may hurt, but the sooner you hear it, the sooner you can fix whatever it is you’re doing wrong, assuming you are doing something wrong. Listen and focus on hearing everything being said. When your critic has made his or her point, say thank you. That will show confidence, dedication and grace too.

Then ask yourself honestly, is the point being made by your critic a fair one? And you really do need to be honest with yourself here. If your conclusion is that your critic has a fair point then you must embrace the lesson. Learn from it; resolve to do better next time; and be determined to improve. That way you’ll go from strength to strength. You will gain the respect of other people too for your willingness to listen and learn.

However, critics are not always right. If honest reflection leads you to the conclusion that your critic is being unfair then just ignore it. Smile and move on. Never take it personally and never let anyone discourage you from the pursuit of your aims.

Conclusion:

Criticism is just feedback. Feedback is your friend. Embrace it; learn from it; use it to your advantage; but never take it personally.

Further Reading:

If this article has whetted your appetite for learning more about receiving feedback then there are some good books on the subject. One you might look at is Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen.

This is a well-written book which is full of sound advice and plenty of examples which should make it easier to understand and follow. I found it useful and motivating and I think you might too.

You can check it out if you CLICK HERE.

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© Roy J Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2017. All Rights Reserved


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