Make the most of feedback

Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and bear it because sometimes criticism is just the truth you need to hear to help you improve your performance, improve your image and move forward.

Of course, not all criticism is useful. Some is just hurtful and some is mean-spirited. Unless you can find a grain of truth in criticism like this and unless you consistently receive similar criticism from a variety of sources, it’s probably safe to let unkind and spiteful comments wash over you.

Most of the time, though, criticism is worth considering. So instead of plugging your ears and humming to yourself, here’s what to do the next time someone criticises you:

  • Think of the criticism as potentially useful information, conveyed to you in the spirit of helping.
  • Put up a mental ‘serene screen’ to sift out any aggressive or hurtful intent.
  • Think about the information from your critic’s perspective.
  • Think about your critic’s motivation and any possible bias or your critic may have.

When you’re consistently receiving similar messages and similar themes, there is probably more than a grain of truth in them. Pick one or two areas to concentrate on improving before moving onto to improving other areas. Here are three ways to prioritise your efforts:

  • Rather than electing to improve in an area in which you have little or no natural aptitude or interest, consider strengthening areas you enjoy and have a natural flair for.
  • Work on areas that could potentially derail your career; these are often the way you approach problems or other people—lack of empathy, lack of sensitivity, or overconfidence, for example. You may need to ‘listen between the lines’ for this type of information since people often back away from telling you home truths like this. In fact, you may have to ask people bluntly for their assessment of you in these areas.
  • Think about building skills for your next role.

Discussion questions

What are your current self-development plans? Do you need to work on any possible ‘career derailers’? What do you need to do to prepare yourself for your next role?