#Adulting: Don’t Take Criticism Personally

We as individuals are not perfect.  We as individuals make mistakes. We as individuals will do something wrong at some point.

  • Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star in 1919 because, his editor said, he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.
  • Oprah Winfrey was an evening news reporter and apparently got fired because she couldn’t sever her emotions from her stories.
  • Jerry Seinfeld was fired after a poor performance on his very minor role on the sitcom Benson.
  • Steve Jobs was fired from his own company.

What does this mean? It means at some point we all receive constructive (negative) criticism. Whether it was missing the goal of an assignment and receiving a bad grade,  forgetting to complete a task, providing the wrong information to someone, etc., negative criticism can stress us out and make us feel as though we may not be “good enough.” This is not the case. Typically, feedback is based on tangible skill sets that can be learned. Even though it may feel uncomfortable, constructive criticism helps us all to learn, grow, see different perspectives, and be better. This process will continue on during you time in college and for your entire career. If we aren’t made aware of how we can improve our own actions, nothing can evolve and grow.

Listen and accept the feedbackListen to what the person delivering feedback has to say. Often times we only hear what someone says, but we don’t really listen – we wait for our turn to talk. By listening to the feedback you will be able to understand their perspective and identify the skill gap you can improve. After you’ve listened to the feedback, thank the person for the feedback, express your appreciation, and let them know you will review their comments and follow up if you need any clarification. This lets the person know they’ve been heard, and allows you the opportunity to follow up with any questions.

Look to see how you can learn from the feedback: You can learn from every experience, good or bad. Every interaction you have with a peer, professional, colleague, or boss provides you with the opportunity to learn about yourself and potentially about them. The person providing feedback is trying to help you do something better. It can be difficult to not take the feedback personally and potentially feel offended. If you do receive negative feedback, try not to let your ego take over. Just dismissing the feedback will only create a negative cycle. To help you move past that, think of action steps you can take to improve the task at hand based on the feedback given. Writing down tangible ways to improve the skill will only enhance your chances of moving towards that progression. While conversing with the other person ask yourself the following. This can help you look at the feedback objectively.

  1. Why did they criticize me?
  2. How are they trying to help me?
  3. What facts are they referring to?
  4. What could I potentially learn from this situation?
  5. How could I possibly do things differently next time?

Allow yourself time to process the information: Take time to step back and think through the information you were given. When getting not-so-pleasant feedback, we might immediately feel the need to get defensive. Reacting implusively will only halt your growth. With time you might be able to see the situation from a different perspective and gain a better understanding of why you received the feedback in the first place.

Think of your brand: How you receive feedback can showcase your brand to your peers, professionals, colleagues, and or bosses. Having a professional attitude, even during difficult conversations will provide the opportunity for those relationships to flourish. The person giving you feedback will remember your presence and they can see that you are a true professional.

By Sherry Rice
Sherry Rice Director of Professional Development & Programming