10 Best Ways to Receive Well-Intended Criticism

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Very few people take criticism well. We don’t like to be judged. And definitely, we don’t like to be found wanting in some way. We need to feel good about ourselves and the work we do. And each of us has some level of self-doubt. Criticism can upset our equilibrium. Defensiveness and anger can be our first reaction.

Also, sometimes others may not deliver criticism well— they may forget the “constructive” part when providing feedback. No matter whether they intended to offend you or not, act as if it came from your well-meaning grannie.

  1. Learn to listen first and respond later rather than reacting in the heat of the moment
  2. Be quiet and listen to what is being said, even if you don’t agree. Avoid hostile questions and arguments about facts. Listen for both what is said and what is not said.
  3. View the feedback in a positive light. View feedback as a gift to help with individual and team development. Put a positive spin on feedback by referring to it as “Live and Learns” or something that sounds positive.
  4. Look for the truth in every message—their truth as well as your own. Remember, there are two sides to every story, so be sure to think about it from the other person’s perspective. In Japanese negotiation, they force themselves to look at all sides of a situation: How am I right? How am I wrong? How is the other side right? How are they wrong? How are we both right and wrong?
  5. Ask questions if you’re unclear on details
  6. Separate the messenger from the message to maintain positive relationships. Don’t kill the messenger as they often did in ancient times. Just think about it: Would you rather be the naked king parading through the village with no clothes because none of your advisers felt safe enough to tell you the truth—or would you prefer not to embarrass yourself?
  7. Practice receptive posture. A receptive posture should be open—stand straight but not rigid.
  8. Keep other nonverbals positive or neutral. Don’t frown, wrinkle your brows, or cross your arms. Use open hand movements and open arms, and don’t cross your legs when trying to convey openness. Nod at appropriate times, and provide vocal reinforcers such as, “Uh huh” and “Tell me more …”
  9. Convey genuine gratitude. Thank the person for the feedback, and say it like you mean it. It helps if you can follow up with them later to show how you are putting the feedback to use (what you are changing, doing differently, etc.).
  10. Wait to decide what to do with the feedback. Separate the act of receiving feedback from deciding what to do with that feedback. Save evaluation and critique of the feedback for later once you’ve had a chance to think about it and digest it. Request time to follow up.

Learn to calmly and graciously accept criticism. Listen without reacting. Ask questions. Keep your nonverbals in check. And try to stay open-minded and grateful.


Agree? Disagree? Add your insightful comments here.