Learning to Like Criticism

Dr. Brian Monger

Seeking criticism

No one enjoys being criticised! Yet, if you want to succeed, you’ve got to overcome all your natural instincts and actively seek out feedback, good and bad.

If you want to advance, you need to develop a positive, flexible, and creative attitude toward feedback. Here are some practical ways to toughen your hide and change your perception.

1.  Diffuse attacks.

To give yourself breathing room, turn “attacks” of criticism into information exchanges. The natural human reaction is to become defensive and offer a list of reasons why the comment is untrue. This quickly locks both sides into fixed adversarial positions from which it is hard to retreat. Break the cycle. As hard as it may be, respond to any negative criticism by immediately agreeing it may be correct. Then ask for more specific details, enlisting the accuser as your ally in improving the situation. You’ll get lots of useful feedback, both negative and positive.

2. Discard your highest and lowest ratings.

Ignore the ten percent who think you walk on water and the ten percent who think you are no good at all. Then listen to the middle eighty percent.”

3. Consider the source.

Do your critics have the right background and experience to judge your work accurately? Are they in a position to give you valuable input? You can’t change to satisfy everyone.

4. Separate intent from content.

Any negative comments about our actions, appearance, or attitudes automatically seem very personal. Yet, amazingly, the commenter may have had the best intentions. Recognise that different people have different personality styles and communication skills. They may sincerely mean to help, but deliver negative comments in a way that is hard to process and accept. On the other hand, an ill-wisher often provides valuable insights. Decide that it is never productive to take any comments personally.

5. Seek out criticism.

Some jobs offer regular job performance evaluations where employees get feedback. If you don’t have such a program, ask for personal feedback anyway, from both your manager and those you manage.  Sit down on a regular basis with staff and ask them, “What things am I doing well? What would like me to do more? What should I do less of or stop doing?”

Recruit your customers as allies by asking them to be your critics.

Don’t be defensive. Keep your clients happy by being as eager to please them as your competitors are. In any selling situation, you’re still selling after the sale. It won’t be long before a rival asks them, “What do you want that your current supplier isn’t providing?” Get the jump by asking the same question. Seek out the criticism before your competitor does!

Try asking open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no.” For example, “How could we help you with that?” or “What improvements would you like to see?” Then summarise what they have said: “It sounds like we could do a better job if…”

6. Feed back your feedback.

Paraphrasing what you’ve just been told helps to eliminate misunderstandings, honouring and acknowledging the criticism, and compelling you to really listen. “Nothing,” demonstrates better to a client, boss or spouse that you have heard them than paraphrasing their statements.” It also helps you to filter out and focus on the useful information.

7. Protect yourself.

We’re not always in shape to cope with negative comments. It’s appropriate to give people feedback on the best time and way to offer you feedback.

People learn to treat you the way you teach them to treat you.

8. Don’t expect everyone to love you.

Praise and approval are wonderful. We all thrive on them. But we all need a dose of reality now and then. Just because people notice imperfections and point them out doesn’t make them your enemies. If you’ve armed yourself with a positive attitude toward criticism, they are going to be your best friends.


Dr Brian Monger is Executive Director of MAANZ International and an internationally known consultant with over 45 years of experience assisting both large and small companies with their projects.  He is also a highly effective and experienced trainer and educator

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MAANZ International website http://www.marketing.org.au

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4 thoughts on “Learning to Like Criticism

  1. I really, really wished I had seen this when I was in college. In art school we would have a “Critique” session. And sometime it would erupt in to full blown fights. Ok, just us guys would fight, the women would have the sense to leave the room.
    We didn’t know how to deliver or receive criticism.
    This could have saved me (and classmates) a lot of physical and mental bruises.

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