Responding to Critics

I recall receiving some of the harshest criticism from a leader who also contributed an enormous amount to helping my career. We will all get criticised at times and it is important to consider why you are getting the feedback when you are responding to critics.

Amazing as it may seem not everyone agrees with you. Not everyone likes you. You need to know when and how you can make your point. It is easy to over react when responding to critics and Dan Rockwell provides some guidance. As RBG famously said – “it helps sometimes to be a little deaf..When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken it is best to tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade” Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing”

attributed to Aristotle

Reflect Don’t Retaliate

“Arrogance prevents growth, Humility learns and grows”. It is often easiest thing to fire back at someone who has criticised us. The power of reflection might actually uncover what the person was telling you and why.

Seek first to understand the message being delivered before you respond. Is it just critical or was there feedback there? What can you learn from that feedback?

Compliment Don’t Criticise

When you have received tough feedback take the opportunity to appreciate or compliment. For example ‘thank you for the feedback, it is great to understand your perspective’.

Perceive Don’t Pontificate

Critics often spend more time talking about themselves than talking about you. Emmet Fox said, “Criticism is an indirect form of self-boasting.” Document what you learned about the critic, what are the triggers for criticism and how might you harness that energy for your support in the future.

Fuel Up, Don’t Fall Down

There are always going to be critics, don’t let critics stop you being the best version of you that you can be.

Responding to Critics
Image Credit: Reno Laithienne – Unsplash

Psychology Today suggests ways to deal with criticism at the time it is being given.

  • Recognise your defensiveness – learn to catch yourself before you react. When we are defensive, we are tense and find it hard to listen or absorb new information.
  • Breathe – Take slow deep breaths to calm down.
  • Listen – only to understand – don’t interrupt, or refute. Save any corrections for a later date.
  • Apologies for your part – by taking responsibility for your actions it can defuse the conversation, moving from combat to collaboration.
  • Let the critical or angry person know you will continue to think about the conversation – by acknowledging that you are taking the commentary seriously you can move forward even if the issues are not resolved.
  • Don’t listen when you can’t – when we are too overwhelmed by emotion or too tired, it is much more sensible to defer to the conversation to a time when you can both focus.
  • Speak your own truths – It is likely you will have a different perspective. Often it is better when responding to critics, to leave providing your own truths and perspective to a later point so as to ensure you get a fair hearing.
  • Draw the line at insults – While people can explode at times, there is no good from taking a serve of insults. It is better to explain you are keen to work with them to understand the issue but only through mutual respect.
DIGEST from an article in LEADERSHIP FREAK
By Dan Rockwell
Published: 3rd December 2020

and from Psychology Today
7 Steps to Dealing with Criticism
By Harriet Lerner Ph.D.
Published: 24th September 2017

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