How To Take Criticism In Your Stride

        We give advice by the bucket, but take it by the grain.

 – Tom Stoppard

You have been deeply engrossed in preparing a presentation for almost a week now. You are confident that it is just perfect and there’s no scope for errors. You foresee your professor singing your praises. But what happens when it turns out to be not as great? The professor points out a couple of mistakes and you feel dejected and frustrated. You refuse to accept that after hours of work and effort, it still didn’t come out well. You become argumentative. You feel that all the effort and time spent has gone down the drain.

If this is your mindset, then you might have to consider introspecting and try to keep your emotions at bay. Most of us can’t stand negative feedback. The moment someone tries to give us some, we become defensive. The problem is that, in the heat of the moment, we don’t realize it. Being at the receiving end of the negative feedback is never easy. Not being able to stay calm in such a situation can not only hamper your learning but also spoil relations. But if we manage to take control of the situation and maintain our composure, we’ll be able to see it as a ladder to learning and growth.

We all have grown up receiving feedback in every phase of our life. Getting it from our parents right from a very young age when we perhaps called it ‘scolding’, to receiving it from school teachers and now from professors and seniors. The only difference is how we all have dealt with it. Some of us aren’t as comfortable with receiving feedback from a particular group of people, for instance, from our peer group. We see them as being at the same level as us and can’t accept that they are better than us or can give us advice. Peer pressure to outperform them is also a factor here which makes us feel uneasy in such situations.

If someone gives feedback, it means he/she has taken out time from their schedule to assess your work. It is a sign that they truly care about you, your growth and your career. Instead of being in denial and running hither and thither for arguments to substantiate your point, pause to think. Actively listen to the other person, for as they say, “Listen to respond, not to react”. However, listening alone won’t do much good. Willingness and readiness to make amendments as per the advice given is a much sought after quality of a student or an employee in any discipline. The next step would be to do a quick follow-up and make sure you’re on the right track. Last but not the least, be grateful to them. Thank them for having given you an opportunity to improve and learn. Always remember not to take criticism as a personal attack. An African proverb says, “Examine what is said and not who speaks.”

I always try to understand the viewpoints offered by the other person and work on their suggestion. This not only lets me experiment with new things, but also become better at them. This also, at times, gives me a new direction to think and work on. In my opinion, not only is it the duty of the senior or colleagues to push the feedback but it’s also our responsibility to pull it towards us. Seeking the feedback ourselves not only helps lighten the tension, it also reduces the hesitation that the giver might have. This approach has, in the past, helped me steer away from the emotions triggered by feedback as my mind is ready to accept it. By asking specific questions when seeking feedback, I get pinpointed as to where I need to improve. This not only helps me become more self-aware and dynamic but also ensures continual growth.

Taking feedback positively and considering it as a learning opportunity shows one’s attitude towards situations not in favor of one. It is a clear reflection of one’s openness to own up to one’s shortcomings and accept it. This also allows one to bond well with one’s peers, juniors or seniors by turning it from a hostile situation to a healthy interactive discussion. There’s absolutely no harm in making mistakes – after all, “To err is human”. Mistakes are evidence of the fact that one is trying out something new. But the problem arises when one expresses the unwillingness to work on it.

Mistakes are evidence of the fact that one is trying out something new. But the problem arises when one expresses the unwillingness to work on it.

Receiving criticism is not easy and neither is giving. We may really want to offer some feedback but the thought of it creating tension in the relationship and bringing communication to a halt might deter us. Giving feedback to someone senior to us is all the more difficult and so is it for them to receive it. Not only is it important to be a good receiver of feedback but it is also equally important, if not more, to be able to communicate and give feedback in an effective manner such that it is well received. This will help us fulfill our true potential.

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Abhilasha Nagpal

A perseverant and an inquisitive technocrat who respects human values, has an eye to detail and is passionate about athletics, writing and introspecting.

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