Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Go on, brush your shoulders off

In every budding career, a little constructive criticism will fall. It's how we learn. But some folks are better at delivering criticism than others, and there will be times when a well-intentioned comment will send you into an emotional spiral. Other folks may deliver straight criticism. I can't promise you that criticism will ever stop (just the opposite--it won't), but here are some tips on how to handle it when it happens to you.
  • Take a deep breath and step away. Being criticized is hard, no matter how many times it happens to you. I find that taking a step back and not reacting right away is the best immediate response. A few minutes (or even days) to clear your head can do wonders for a professional response.
  • Find the silver lining. It's easy to find the positive in constructive criticism—often the criticizer includes it in the comment or leaves a door open for you to ask follow-up questions about how to improve. And the positive of that is that you have an opportunity to grow in your professionalism and abilities. Regular criticism may or may not have a silver lining, but even if the criticizer didn't intend any positive outcomes, you can embrace the criticism, find your own positive way out, and show them who's boss.
  • Seek a second opinion. Especially when the criticism doesn't seem constructive at first, it's helpful to get another opinion from someone you trust professionally. For example, if a colleague expressed the criticism, you may go to your supervisor to ask their opinion and whether there's anything you can do to avoid the criticism in the future. They may be able to turn it into a constructive comment after all. A trusted coworker or even someone outside your company may be able to offer an objective take on the situation as well.
  • Don't forget the lesson. On the flip-side of being hurt too easily, there are those that are criticized for the same thing over and over again. Once you've found the lesson, hold it near and remember it. I can't even count how many little things I learned in my first year on the job that still run through my mind regularly and help me in my work.
  • Don't be afraid to put yourself back out there. It's easy to be a little gun-shy after you've been shot down a few times. But holding back isn't the answer...keep your head up, stay confident in your abilities, and try again (and again and again). 

How do you handle criticism?


  1. Such a timely article Angeline! I'm in this situation right now and trying to figure out the best response, so I appreciate the "step back" tip!
    On another note, I think you've got a typo in your third bullet point, "seek a second opinion". You wrote "college", but I believe you meant "colleague". You've mentioned that you're a grammar fiend, so I thought you'd like to know :)

  2. @ ashley - eek! thanks for pointing it out...I corrected the typo. :) Good luck on your situation!

  3. I must admit that I don't rake criticism well. I aspire to perfection - which I know if kind of insane and unreal - however I do. So, I am the first to criticize myself.

  4. Oh on another note, regarding the tittle of the post, I honestly thought it had to do on how to tell co workers they had dandruff....

  5. I think I needed this today. It's been a long day! A few minutes to clear my head is definitely beneficial for me. :)

  6. i recently got into an email fight, and while i don't regret having said what i said, i do wish i had taken more time to draft emails before responding. cooling down a bit would've helped me make my emails much more effective.

    @lorena i thought the same thing! something on how to tell co-workers something embarrassing: dandruff, bad breath, too loud conversations...

  7. @ Lorena - I hear ya...but other people may or may not even have valid criticisms. I am harder on myself than any critic I've had, too.

    @ Classy Career Girl - Thanks! That usually helps me the most, too.

    @ Step - is tough! I usually sit on my emails for at least a day and reread them before I send. It's hard because it's so easy and so instant.

    @ lorena and step - funny, I thought twice about the title, but that reason never popped into my head!


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