“Against criticism a man can neither protest nor defend himself; he must act in spite of it, and then it will gradually yield to him.”
Johann Wolfgang Goethe.
The human condition includes blind spots. Therefore we need feedback. This means criticism. Criticism is a core process in delivering quality. In healthy environments people who create new products invite criticism to ensure that all the bugs and wrinkles are ironed out of what they are making. And critics abound, some good, some bad. Observing recording and giving accurate, descriptive feedback is a life skill. A life skill requiring learning and practice to achieve mastery. Unschooled, we are likely to interpret what we see and, even with the best intentions, offer judgements rather than descriptions.
It is therefore a good idea to prepare ourselves to receive poorly delivered feedback.
Here is a strategy for dealling with criticism. When receiving feedback consider the following steps:
- Hear the criticism all the way.
- Don’t interrupt or defend. Just listen.
- Weigh the criticism for a time. Sift it against your inner sense of truth.
- Note what bothers you and what is useful.
- Allow hours or days to pass.
- Take time and space to feel your feelings. Let them rise and subside.
- Do something nurturing. Read a good review or recall a compliment.
- Write out the criticism.
- Write out your criticism of the criticism.
- Does the criticism remind you of the past? Is it triggering grief over a long standing wound?
- This would be a good time to address your inner team to ask who got hurt.
- Share your notes with someone you trust.
- Absorb this persons’ response. Do not defend or argue.
- Sift the feedback against your inner sense of truth.
- If you decide to defend or argue, put your thoughts in writing.
- Make an action plan. List concrete behavioural changes you can and are willing to make.
- Get back on the horse. Creativity is the cure for criticism.
- Carry out your action plan.