Not all criticism is created equal, but our responses to criticism, whether warranted or not, or whether from a respected mentor or archrival, should be uniform. And by uniform, our reaction should remain professional at all times. The feedback may be personal, but don’t take it personally.
I know, easier said than done. I’m the first to admit my tendency is to defend myself.
Instead, we should take pause.
Don’t say anything.
We can’t react emotionally, because we might say something we regret. And there is no going back from that. You can’t say, “oops” and ask for a do-over. The damage is done.
When you’re staring down the barrel of criticism’s gun, consider:
- Is there a basis for the criticism? Be honest with yourself. Where does the fault actually reside? While reasonably processing the situation, you might find there is valuable feedback and lessons to be learned from the person providing the insight.
- With even more time on your side, approach trusted mentors and advisers equipped to extend less subjective insight into your performance and the criticism waged against you. With this additional feedback in hand, you’ll be better able to strategize your response to the critic, or adjust future performance for success.
- Learn from the experience. Even if you find the criticism wasn’t fair, there is still wisdom to be gained. If you and others find the feedback lacks merit, you can still learn to let go. By that, you’ll find how to shut the door on the pain that comes with perhaps unjustified or hurtful comments. You’ll be a better person by resisting the temptation to either lash out by holding a grudge or retaliating more blatantly. On the flipside, with careful consideration, you may find the feedback is helpful and learn to adjust your actions or approach to assure such criticism is never leveled against you again.
Regardless of if the criticism is valuable or not, get what you need from the experience and move on. Remember a scar may exist, but if you keep picking at the injury and dwelling on how you were wronged or agonizing over your weaknesses every day, that injury will never heal and cause significant long-term damage.
How have you learned from criticism?