He that won’t be counseled can’t be helped. – Benjamin Franklin

Each year at review time, we sit down with our managers and get our yearly feedback.  For most, the majority of the feedback is positive – goals have been met, performance is strong, relationships have been developed. Then there is the “areas for development.” Our ears prick up, our heart beats a bit faster, palms might get sweaty, we are listening much more closely. As our manager ticks off these articles of criticism we feel the sting and we may start to respond defensively or hang our heads in defeat.

Here are some other choices and perspectives we can make:

First, criticism is a fact of life. We get it in our professional and our personal lives. So be prepared to receive it. Consciously we all say we like “constructive feedback” – until someone gives it to us.

Second, try not to take it personally. This is something I have been exercising recently. I was starting to let criticism “in” and allowing it to affect my self esteem. By refocusing and moving the criticism to my actions or results allowed me to look at it more objectively and respond to it better. Then I could ask myself, “Who’s offering the criticism, and are they qualified? Are they trying to help me or hurt me? Objectively, is there any truth to what they are saying?” After asking myself these questions I was in a much better position to respond in a positive way.

Third, use criticism as a learning tool. Don’t just brush off the criticism. Make sure you are receptive and think about what is being said.  Think back on your career to a time when you received critical feedback that you dismissed at that moment only later to realize was sound advice.

We all want to be right, have the best ideas and be viewed positively by our peers, bosses and reports.  Isn’t it a wonderful feeling when you have offered feedback to someone in a constructive way and they thoughtfully looked away for a second, turned back to you, smiled, and said, “What a great suggestion!  Thanks.”

[Note: This is the 10th in a 12-week series of posts that will discuss “choices” from the book Monday Morning Choices by David Cottrell.]

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