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Tips on How to Deal With Criticism at Work

It can be rather stressful and annoying when you work really hard, and the only thing you hear from your colleagues and your boss is negative criticism. How do you react without creating an incident that can cost you a job? It is a bit tricky but possible.

Hear this out!

Be mentally prepared

Naturally, when we feel that someone is attacking us, whether it is physically or verbally, we start defending ourselves and fighting back. This is our most basic response and was responsible for our survival during ancient times and in the war times. Today, not many things are a matter of life and death, but still, we tend to react instinctively. This also happens when we are receiving criticism. Our response depends on who is giving the criticism and how powerful that person (and thus his critique) is. The more power the person has, the stronger our response will be. And if we feel that the criticism is unjustified or unfair, that makes our response even stronger.

In many of these situations, we can be prepared. They may be repetitive, so our response has to be smarter with time. Everyone gets criticized, i.e. receives negative feedback at work at some point in their lives, so it is better to have a mentally prepared reaction to it.

You should analyze your previous reactions to some criticism you received in your past. Remember how you felt, and how you reacted. How would you handle the situation if it happened all over again? Would you do something different?  You should replay that unpleasant situation in your mind in such a way that it now has the outcome you wanted. This way, you will come up with some better responses that would help you get out of the situation as a winner, not as an embarrassed loser. It would be beneficial if you could come up with a word or phrase you could repeat whenever the situation comes up again. Just find that little phrase to cool off the situation. Something like: ‘Yeah, right, I believe you’ or ‘And how are you feeling today’ just to distract the person’s attention from yourself and direct it towards himself or some other matter.

Just listen and nod

Overcoming our natural urge to defend ourselves is a difficult task for some people. When we are being treated unfairly, the last thing we feel like doing is listening calmly. Our nature tells us to fight back. But anyhow, when we overcome this instinct and simply listen, we can make the most of the situation and not get fired. By simply listening and nodding, we allow the other party to share all the information he has, and we show how self-confident we are with our own point of view. Then, when the other party finishes his speech, we will have time to explain our thoughts.

Be careful with the emotions

The natural thing with humans (and also with animals) is that we feel before we even have time to think. That is why we are ready to defend ourselves and strike back even before we analyze all the aspects of the situation in question. If we see the negative feedback as a verbal attack, we will fight back. It is obvious, but this can trigger some powerful and unnecessary emotions on both sides. These strong emotions will soon subside as our rational brain takes over.

When we feel these strong emotions raising up, the first thing we should do is take some time just breathing. Take a deep breath before you react and count to ten, or find your own technique to, for a moment, mentally distract yourself from the current situation. If you feel that the emotions are still high, tell the person you will get back to him as soon as you have the right answer and go out to the bathroom to wash your face and drink water, for example. This will give you time to collect your thoughts and enable you to respond rather than react.

While responding, we use our thinking and when we are simply reacting, the emotions are in charge.

Stay respectful

Disagreeing with the feedback you are receiving doesn’t mean that the other party is wrong and that you are right and vice versa. You can both be right to some extent.  Having different viewpoints means that the conversation can be very productive. Disagreeing frequently leads to the progress. A productive discussion comes from the confronted points of view rather than from the uniformity of thoughts. Imagine what would have happened if we all had the same way of thinking. There would be no progress at all.

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