I’ve always envied people who can graciously accept constructive criticism.
It seems I was not born with that trait, and throughout my career I’ve struggled with receiving feedback, even when it was entirely accurate. The moment I hear the words, my heartbeat quickens and my mind begins to race—first in search of an explanation for the assault on my person and then for a retort to rationalize whatever actions are in question.
And I’m not alone.
Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment, many of us react with defensiveness and anger or—even worse—attack the person giving feedback. But the truth is, we need to get over it. We know there’s value in constructive criticism—how else would we identify weaknesses only help us maintain relationships and be more successful in everything we do.
So how do you learn to back off the defensive? The next time you receive constructive criticism from your manager or a peer, use this six-step process to handle the encounter with tact and grace.
1. Stop Your First Reaction
At the first sign of criticism, before you do anything—stop. Really. Try not to react at all! You’ll have at least one second to stop your reaction. While one second seems insignificant in real life, it’s ample time for your brain to process a situation. And in that moment, you can halt a dismissive facial expression or reactive quip and remind yourself to stay calm.