Magazine article Work & Family Life

Making Critical Feedback Work for You

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Making Critical Feedback Work for You

Article excerpt

Most of us give lip service to how much we want and need feedback from our coworkers, supervisors and teachers. But when it comes, and it is negative, we're often more sensitive than we care to admit.

Receiving criticism, especially when it seems accurate, is uncomfortable indeed. But when we get defensive, people may assume that we're egotistical. Or maybe we just don't really care one way or the other or our self-esteem is so shaky, we can get "blown away" when anyone suggests we should do something differently.

In any case, we may be seen as someone who does not want to grow and change.

How to respond to criticism

A good way to start is by doing our best to maintain what Judith Sills, PhD calls "a public smile," no matter how provocative or painful the criticism.

This doesn't mean you should look happy if you are challenged unfairly. It just means that you are following her first rule of facing criticism: "Take it in. Save your defense-your explanation, your justification, even your legitimate outrage-for later when it might do you some good."

A public smile also helps you to listen, or at least appear to listen, to what is being said to you. But the best technique for showing that you are listening is by rephrasing what your manager or supervisor has said.

However, suggests Dr. Sills, "Mirroring under the fire of critical assault requires calm focus, but it works like magic to make the boss stop browbeating you."

For example, let's say your boss tells you that you're putting too much detail into your presentations, and he only wants to hear about the large business drivers. You might respond, "You want me to concentrate on making brief presentations with a bigpicture focus."

When you let your supervisor know that you have heard what he or she said and you understand the implications in terms of what you might do differently, you've made a big step forward. …

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