30 Jul 4 Steps to Take to Learn from Criticism
Hearing criticism from others can be difficult, especially when it is criticism of your most prized ambitions – or of your ability to reach them. One of the most common pieces of advice says that we should ignore criticism and press on.
While this is definitely the right advice to take in certain situations, ignoring critics can also mean that we will be blind to potential obstacles or miss out on an important learning experiences.
Here are some ways you may be able to learn from criticism:
1. Consider whether it’s constructive criticism
There are some criticisms that aren’t so much criticisms as insults or hateful comments. It may be easy to identify “criticisms” that are really a way to insinuate some racist, sexist, and other unjust idea. Other criticisms may really be criticisms, but they may be offered by people with only a superficial understanding of your work, situation, or plans. Often, these types of comments can and should be dismissed (but if they reflect what you’ve heard from others, they may be a sign you need to consider whether the criticism is just).
But identifying criticisms that are worth considering can take practice. Even when we are unsure of ourselves, the first reaction to criticism is usually self-defense. When someone takes time to explain why they have doubts or when you hear the same criticisms from many different people, you should take some time to listen.
2. Identify exactly what the criticism is about
Was the criticism of a particular action you took (or plan to take)? If so, think about whether it is really just about that action. Does it actually refer to your general behavior or goals?
Was the criticism of a frequent behavior or characteristic of yours? For example, did someone mention your tendency to leave things to the last minute? Your ability to communicate? Criticisms that focus on tendencies like these can be useful. Obviously, everyone has their own personality. In many cases, one habit or style is not particularly better than another. However, an important leadership skill is the ability to be somewhat flexible and adapt to different environments when possible. Think about whether the criticism makes sense and might help you improve your skills.
3. Think about how the criticism might benefit you
What can you learn from the criticism? If a specific situation brought it about, think about how other people could have seen that scenario. Does their criticism actually suggest an alternative course of action, or is it just negativity without any real thoughts for improvement? Look back at the situation and think about what you might learn from it.
It is often personally harder to benefit from criticism of your goals and ambitions. If someone thinks your ambition is worthless or hopeless, it can call some of the most important aspects of your life and thought into question. But this type of criticism may be just what you need to make sure that you have a real plan – and a back-up plan.
4. Be honest
Be as objective as possible. Think about what you could have done better. Ask a third party about the situation – and if they weren’t there, be fair in your account to them. Did you act carelessly? Didn’t prepare for a presentation? Let your temper get the better of you? Are you putting all your hopes into a risky ambition without setting up a back-up plan? Do you have a good understanding of everything your goals entail?
Even if someone else’s perspective hurts your ego or is largely unfair, it is worth taking the time to think about what a criticism can teach you.
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