If you’re reading this you probably admit hands up, white flag, that you don’t always have the best reaction every time someone tells you that a piece of your work needs a bit of work. Being told that you’ve basically wasted your time and need to re-do everything isn’t always easy. For most of us, the initial reaction can look something like one of these…
“But…I just…this…it took me ages…is it me? It’s because you don’t like me isn’t it?! I don’t know why I even bother!” voice shakes, lip trembles and large salty liquids plop down your cheeks whilst you audibly heave back unavoidable sobs escaping from your throat.
“No. It’s fine as it is. You’re wrong.”
The High Horse
“HOW DARE YOU INSULT MY TALENT. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHO I AM?”
I am particularly cursed with a large case of the wobbly’s and have also been known to hiss, “well, just do it yourself then” which, surprisingly, didn’t go down well. As a Copywriter, I have to take on a fair bit of criticism, it comes with the territory. It’s something I’m slowly learning to not only accept but realise is a good thing.
To help me in my plight I spoke to Vikki Coombes, CEO and Founder of coaching and consulting company Your Bright Horizons, about her methods for taking criticism and tips for those of us who might not always be the most gracious receivers of it.
What is your usual, initial reaction to being criticised?
This depends very much on who the criticism is from and how it is delivered. If the person is someone close to me I may have an initial gut-wrench hurt feeling, but then I understand that they care about me and I step back and listen to them openly. If they are someone who is a stranger or less well-known then often I am just curious about what they have to say and look at it from the stance point that their criticism says a lot more about them than it does about me.
When it is delivered in a proactive, compassionate way I am more open to listening, learning and considering taking what is said on board. When it is delivered in a destructive derogatory way I give it zero credence and ignore it entirely. Because that is definitely about the person delivering the criticism and has nothing to do with who I am.
Why do you think people find it hard to be criticised?
The answers to this are endless. For instance, if the criticism is from someone who you have received unconditional and unquestioning love from up until this point it can feel like betrayal and therefore be hard to listen to or it may make you angry because you suddenly feel like they are no longer ‘on your side’.
In a professional environment if it is received from someone you respect and admire you may feel that you are belittled in their eyes. Or if it comes from a peer you may wonder who they think they are to be criticising you. Or if it comes from someone who you have little respect for you may just find it annoying or unworthy of your attention.
And also it depends again on how the criticism is delivered. When it is constructive feedback in the form of suggestions, recommendations and ideas then people are a lot more open to receiving it and making improvements. When it is given as uninvited derogatory and reactionary then people will close up and ignore the criticism.
Finally, what tips can you give for someone who may find it hard to be criticised about their work?
The following will make you a person who goes far and should be done regardless of who the criticism is received from or how it is delivered to you. Because every moment is a chance to learn, grow and develop as a human being and as a professional.
First, listen to them and consider where they are coming from.
Second, thank them and tell them you are going to think about what they have said and that you may come back to them with some questions.
Third, walk away, take some time out, write down or draw a diagram or whatever works for you what the criticism was and your own immediate thoughts/feelings about it.
Fourth, speak with a mentor to help you consider the criticism and situation that led to it objectively.
Fifth, decide what you are going to take on board and what you are going to ignore.
Sixth, send a note to the individual thanking them for their insight and explaining what you will do differently next time.
Seventh, make the changes and move on.
Follow Vikki and Your Bright Horizons on Twitter.