1. Filter out the truth. Chances are the criticism is not entirely random. It may be excessively negative, but it still may correctly identify something that you should change.
2. Identify any disguised issues. Why is this person attacking you? Sometimes the criticism has little to do with the issue at hand. Instead, the person is merely angry and retaliating.
If you jumped ahead of your colleague for a promotion, your colleague may find every opportunity to bring notice to your faults or errors. In this case, these are legitimate errors of which you should be aware, but she is only calling attention to them because she is hurt from losing the promotion.
Identifying this issue doesn’t have to give her a pass on her behavior, but it can help you put the criticism in better perspective and feel less picked on if you know she’s doing out of anger.
3. Ask for input. If you keep butting heads with someone, ask for their input the issue for which they are critical. If it’s a project, ask their opinion before you finish your work. Some people are more receptive to your efforts if they think they had influence over your ideas.
4. Pause before you respond. If what was said was particularly anger provoking or hurtful, your first response will not be constructive. One way to diffuse the situation is to ask for more details.
If someone says “You always jump the gun on things and mess them up.” This is a broad statement and isn’t really telling you much about what you did wrong. Rather than say “No I don’t, you’re just mad that we didn’t do it your way.” You could ask for more details.
- Sample question 1
“How have I jumped the gun?” This gives you more details on what you may have legitimately done wrong. It also gives you time to calm down and get a reasonable take away point.
- Sample question 2
“What would you have done differently?” This is a good way to deflect the attention from your alleged ineptitude and get your critic to talk about herself. If she really gets into talking about herself, you will have time to recuperate from her scathing comment and decide whether you want to entertain a conversation about what you could have done differently or let it go when she’s finished talking.
5. See the other person’s view. Put yourself in her shoes. If you were in her position, how would you feel about what you did (or didn’t do)?
Suppose you were late completing a project and it had a domino effect that caused other people to take a loss. Your colleague lashes out at you for being irresponsible. Maybe you don’t see yourself as irresponsible, but instead your work was dependent on others who were late with their deliverables.
You can become demoralized when you have to take on all the responsibility for something that involved others, but the others are insulated from the criticism. In this scenario, put yourself in the place of those on the domino end who lost an opportunity. They are going to be angry even if they understand intellectually that no one person is responsible. They will still need to be angry at a person and not “the process.”
Lashing out with insults is not justified because you are angry, but if you can empathize with someone’s position, it can help you not take the criticism personally.
6. Don’t let it shake your confidence. This requires some skin thickening. But the process of not only accepting, but also welcoming criticism helps you absorb the feedback without it chipping away at your self-esteem.
You’d like to get the point where you can take even the harshest criticism and do an impersonal forensic analysis of it. Think of it as a mystery to decode. Detach yourself from it so that you can objectively integrate the useful feedback and reject the negative commentary before it seeps into your mind and soul and poisons it.