First, let’s define what I mean by constructive criticism.
Whoever wrote the little lyric of “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” clearly wasn’t bullied or criticized. If there is one thing I can say about criticism, especially in childhood, it can have very damaging effects to a person’s self-esteem. Sometimes this can make us hyper-sensitive to any type of criticism and we end up perceiving what someone says as critical when it wasn’t intended that way. If we don’t have a complicated history with criticism, we can still initially feel hurt when hearing that we have done something incorrectly, or have made a misstep. In either case, we put our armour on and deflect what is being said instead of actively listening. Here are some steps to accepting constructive criticism:
- Recognize that it is constructive. Generally speaking, constructive criticism is delivered in a calm manner and is quite specific. It often includes your strengths as well as what needs to be improved upon or tweaked. It tends to focus on the situation and not on character. It can include actionable solutions.
- Recognize where your sensitivity is coming from. Take a deep breath and be open to the fact that perhaps you are perceiving something as critical, when in fact, it isn’t.
- Recognize the value in it. Being able to be open to hearing someone else will help build and strengthen relationships. When you can accept constructive criticism, you create an open space for others to approach you.
- Sleep on it. Sometimes you may not entirely agree with the feedback and that is okay. Take some time to gather your thoughts about it, vetting them to someone else to make sure you are being objective and create more conversation once you have made your own points about the situation.
Being able to accept and work with constructive criticism leads to overall flexibility, greater self-awareness and a strengthening of a sense of healthy self.
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