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  • Tramelle D Jones

Responding to Constructive Criticism


I once led my team in a constructive criticism exercise and asked them to anonymously write down specific actions our team could take to meet our goals efficiently. This came at the end of a day-long retreat where we learned how to provide and receive constructive criticism effectively.

Almost everyone was on board except for one person. They had such a hard time with the exercise that they went around asking who it was who wrote about them! I get it… Feedback is hard to hear.


Even though constructive criticism is a good thing, because it helps us improve ourselves and refine our skills, I believe people are often worried more about receiving destructive criticism!


Destructive criticism is useless and serves no good purpose, aside from hurting your feelings… If you allow it!


Destructive Criticism - What Should You Do?


Even though it's difficult receiving destructive and negative criticism, you should still listen to it. This type of criticism is normally motivated by someone else's need to feel superior, but there may be a shred of truth in there somewhere.

Try not to take it personally because, chances are, you're not the problem. The person lashing out may be feeling envious or jealous, which colors their opinion.


Destructive criticism tends to be a personal attack. When the heart of an insult or comment is you (rather than something you've done), it is destructive and should be ignored. After all, no one has the right to determine your self-esteem!


If you find that you're dealing with constant destructive criticism from management or a specific co-worker, to a point where it might be a toxic work environment, be sure to talk with someone about a strategic way to handle this type of workplace abuse. Find a therapist or career coach to connect with that will give you a non-biased opinion on what you're dealing with.


Constructive Criticism - How to Respond Appropriately


Constructive criticism is meant to help you. Listen carefully to what the person is saying. When the speaker is finished, put aside any personal attacks and simply let them know you'll reflect on their suggestions. It's best to focus your response on explaining that you've heard them.


Constructive criticism can be useful if it's based on performance or behavior. We don't always see our own behaviors in the same way others do, so listening to others' viewpoints can be helpful.


Constructive criticism usually comes from a place of genuine concern. Our hope is, if the person giving the criticism didn't care about you, they wouldn't offer the criticism in the first place.


It's important not to respond quickly with an explanation of your actions or intentions in the moment. Take time for strategic thought and consider how (or if) you'll implement the ideas presented to you.


If you receive professional constructive criticism from a superior, it's best to take notes and ask questions. This can help you distract from a quick reaction and have something tangible to review later for clarity. If your boss is giving you constructive criticism about your job performance, be open to it.


Your boss is likely speaking from experience as their job is to help you improve and excel. If they're offering insight and actionable advice, it could translate to mean they value you as an employee and believe in you. so listen, identify the actionable steps, and move into action mode.


Types of Constructive Criticism

There are certain expressions you can look for to know you're receiving constructive criticism. If you hear these, then recognize the person is trying to help you rather than attack you. Listen well to these types of criticism, analyze if there is any truth to what is being said, and then act on their suggestions.


1- The compliment sandwich.

Someone gives you a compliment followed by a suggestion for an area of improvement and then finally, another compliment.

  • This tells you that the person sees the good things you do and thinks you can improve further.

2- Encouragement criticism.

In this type of constructive criticism, the person is trying to help you do better at something you're already doing fairly well.

  • This tells you the person knows you try hard and maybe even wants to help you take it to the next level.

3- Thank you.

If the conversation starts with someone thanking you for a job well done, you can be sure that they appreciate your efforts.

  • This person usually wants to help you do better because they like you.

When responding to constructive criticism, you want to be sure to understand where the person is coming from before you say anything. You should always ask them to clarify something if you don't fully understand what they're saying.


When you receive constructive criticism, listen for what is being said honestly and objectively. Constructive criticism is all about improving. Unless you accept it from this point of view, it will be difficult to change your behavior for the better.


Don’t be the person on my team trying to find out who “wrote about them,” instead the only thing you need to say when receiving constructive criticism is simply "Thank You."


Responding appropriately to criticism shows your maturity and willingness to improve. So swallow your pride, take it in the spirit in which it's offered, and you'll come out on top.


 

If you are dealing with destructive criticism, don't feel that you have to figure things out alone. I'm happy to talk with you to get clarity!


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