Accept criticism with gratitude
30. July 2020

How to deal with criticism positively?

By Riccardo Giacometti

“It is by no means the same thing to know the truth about yourself or to have to hear it from others”.

Aldous Huxley

Criticism hurts and nobody is keen on personal accusations. Constructive feedback, on the other hand, can be quite enriching. Knowing how, accepting feedback can even contribute enormously to your own development – and you should not miss this opportunity!

Ask for more information

If you are unclear about anything, ask. Ask for concrete examples. It should be clear to you what the feedback provider wanted to say with the feedback. Of course, you do not have to agree with your counterpart. It is not about discussing whether the person giving feedback is right. You should just not go home and wonder what he or she actually meant.

Do not justify yourself, accept feedback

In many cases, feedback will trigger a desire in you to defend or justify yourself. This is normal, but not necessary! On the contrary: It must be possible to give feedback without it triggering endless discussions.

If it is important for you and the person giving feedback agrees, you can describe your perception of the situations discussed.This is about exchange and not about convincing the other person of something.  Leave opposing opinions and perceptions for now. Go home and think about it in peace and quiet. If you haven’t had much feedback, you will probably find this extremely difficult. In this case, I recommend that you agree before giving feedback that you will only thank them for the feedback and not react to it in terms of content. This will save you this balancing act.

Say thank you

Feedback gives you information that you can only get from other people, namely how your behaviour affects others. It enables you to develop yourself and be successful in both your private and professional life.

It is particularly difficult for managers in higher hierarchical levels to receive feedback.

So thank your counterpart for letting you share his or her perspective. This also increases the willingness of the person giving feedback to continue investing time and energy in valuable feedback.

You decide what you do with the feedback

You cannot always control when you get feedback from whom. For example, your company may require you to participate in feedback meetings. Or your colleague may give you feedback without you having asked for. However, it is your decision what you do with the feedback you receive. Reflections or changes in behaviour cannot be forced.

You can never do justice to all people. This must be accepted by both you as a feedback recipient and the person giving feedback. Feedback is the subjective perception of the person giving feedback. It gives you the opportunity to see yourself through the eyes of other people. There are many different eyes in this world and you will never be able to make everyone happy. So do not feel bad if you disagree with a feedback at all. Sometimes feedback has more to do with the person giving the feedback than with the person receiving it.

However, if you know from the beginning that you will not be willing to deal with the other person’s feedback, it would be better not to have the feedback conversation at all. This will only lead to frustration on both sides and a deterioration of the relationship. Therefore, I feel, prescribed feedback is not useful in companies.

Reflect feedback received

So how to deal with criticism positively? In order for you to make the best possible use of the feedback you receive, it is important that you do a good follow-up. Take your time to think about what you have heard, what it means to you and how you want to proceed.

If you don’t know exactly what to do with the feedback, but you are concerned about it, get additional support from your private or professional environment.

Individual feedback should not be given anonymously, as this is very personal and the anonymity means that there is no possibility to ask questions. However, if you are forced to receive anonymous feedback in your company, at least ask for professional support. A coach can guide you systematically through the follow-up and reflection. This way you are not alone with your feedback and can use it as well as possible for yourself and your further development.