The next time you're faced with feedback that's difficult to hear, remember this: it's not always about you. It's mostly about the other person. This is what many people don’t realize. When we get criticized, we instantly question our value. We bury our truth and limit our potential. Here are some actions to take instead that will help you hear the other person, and move on productively.
When we’re feeling attacked, oxygen leaves our brain and starts traveling to other parts of our body to prepare to fight. Obviously, we don’t want to fight in this situation; we want to stay calm. So, take deep breaths. Slowly the oxygen will return to your brain and you can think rationally again.
2. Admit that it hurts.
This shows maturity, even if you’re faking it. Say a quick, “Wow, that was really hard to hear,” and then you can run off to the bathroom and cry your eyes out for the next ten minutes. Plus, that saves face and gives you more time to think of what you actually want to say.
3. Don’t react immediately.
Going back to the first step ("breathe"), you don’t want to react immediately. Chances are that you’re not thinking rationally after you’ve been criticized and reacting right away will be a bad move. It’s best to listen and then take some time to let your feelings settle. You could say, “I hear what you’re saying. Let me think about it for a bit.”
4. Share your thoughts.
Once you’ve collected your thoughts, you’re ready for the rebuttal. This is your chance to share what’s on your mind, in a respectful manner that shows your strengths. If you were criticized by your teacher, you might say something like, “I studied for three hours for this test and I always pay attention and take notes in class. I’m never late and I turn in my homework on time, etc.”
5. Say thanks.
Even though criticism hurts, you’ve learned something about yourself and you can be thankful for that. Let the person know that you're grateful by saying, “Thanks for letting me know. I appreciate it.”
6. Don’t take it personally.
Usually, criticism has very little to do with you and a lot to do with the other person’s own insecurities, anger, or unique way of seeing the world. If someone makes a nasty personal attack on you, there's a good chance that it's actually he or she who has the problem. At the other end of the spectrum, if someone criticizes you in a constructive manner, don’t let your own pride get in the way of hearing what they have to say.
Sometimes there is good reason for people to be critical of what we say or do. So if you're criticized, try to be open-minded about it. Perhaps even welcome it by expressing gratitude to your critic. It may not be nice to hear, but such feedback is often a part of the learning process and can provide us with valuable insights into how we can improve and grow as a person.
8. Toughen up.
I don’t necessarily think it's bad to be sensitive. But if criticism regularly hijacks your thoughts, it could be time to toughen up and grow a thicker skin. In my opinion, the best way to do this is with an inside-out approach. By this I mean don’t just pretend to be tougher. Instead, take the time to work on your self-esteem so that you hold greater confidence in your abilities and ideas.
9. Be assertive.
If you feel that the criticism you receive is unjustified, respond courteously, but assertively. This may be difficult, particularly if the other person is your senior. But it's generally not a good idea to “bottle up” your feelings as this is what can leave you dwelling on criticism for hours or even days.
10. Do it anyway.
Perhaps the most important point: don’t change the way you act or the things you say simply to avoid criticism. Remember, criticism is usually inevitable. And it may just be an indication that you have taken a risk and chosen to tackle something which is a challenge to you.