Taking Constructive Criticism Like a Champ

Some people can graciously accept constructive criticism while others may struggle and feel overly sensitive.

Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment, we might over-react with defensiveness or anger and attack the person giving feedback. But the truth is, we need to get over it. We live and work in collaboration with others and intellectually we know there’s value in constructive criticism—how else would we identify areas of improvement? It helps us maintain relationships and be more successful in everything we do.

So how do you learn to take constructive criticism? The next time you receive useful feedback from your manager or a peer, use this three-step process to handle the encounter with tact and grace.

1. Don’t Express Your First Reaction

When someone is giving you feedback before you do anything—stop. Try not to react at all! You’ll have at least three seconds to stop your reaction. While three seconds seems insignificant, it’s ample time for your brain to process the situation. At that moment, you can halt a dismissive facial expression and remind yourself to stay calm.

2. Remember the Benefit of Receiving Feedback

Now, you have a few seconds to quickly remind yourself of the benefits of receiving constructive criticism. To improve your skills, leadership capabilities, and to help you meet the expectations that your stakeholders, manager, colleagues, and direct reports have of you. If you find this step challenging in the moment, get in the habit of reminding yourself of this before you step into a meeting or 1:1. Practice poker face with the person who is delivering the feedback. It can be challenging to receive a different opinion from a co-worker, peer, or someone that you don’t fully respect, but remember: Useful information can come from flawed sources.

3. Say Thank You

Next, look the person in the eye and thank them for sharing feedback with you. Don’t gloss over this—be intentional and say, “I really appreciate you taking the time to talk about this with me.”

Expressing appreciation does not have to mean you’re agreeing with the assessment, but it does show that you’re acknowledging the effort your colleague took to evaluate you and share his or her thoughts.

Constructive criticism is often the only way we learn about our weaknesses—without it we can’t improve. When we’re defensive, instead of accepting and gracious, we run the risk of missing out on this important insight. Remember, feedback is not easy to give and it’s certainly not always easy to receive, but being able to be receptive will help you now and in the long run.

Need more tips on how to take criticism like a champ? Our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a complimentary 25-minute phone session to help. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise.

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