“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.” –Elbert Hubbard.
How do you handle criticism? If you’re like me, it depends on a few factors such as the topic of the criticism, the person who is providing the criticism, the value/importance of the criticism and the purpose of the criticism. Like it or not, one thing we all have in common is that at some point in our career, we will be the recipient of criticism. So, how do you handle it when it happens to you? For the purpose of this short perspective, I am referring to valid criticisms.
Recently I was the recipient of some criticism directed towards me regarding the performance of some of my staff. I listened, offered some responses regarding the particulars and made a point of agreeing with the person who provided me with the input. I’ll admit it was difficult to absorb, and I came away from the discussion a little disheartened. The messenger was even courteous enough to suggest that I not take it too hard, which I appreciated, but inside, I did. It felt bad, although it was reasonable and on point, and I walked from the conversation feeling pretty down.
Like a lot of guys (and some gals) in my generation, I grew up playing little league baseball. For nine seasons I learned the fine art of hitting a curve ball, stretching for errant throws while keeping a foot on first base (my regular position), and dealing with both the triumphs of victory and the painful dismay of losses. I was a part of teams that played in championships, as well as those that weren’t as fortunate. But truthfully, I loved every minute of the game. It was mostly about having fun (for me anyways).
Every season was a different season, and no two years were really ever the same. Different teammates, different coaches, different team names and colors (my parents still have a framed photo of me, a black and white photo, beaming with pride as I show off my jersey and hat from year one, sporting the words “Lopina Orchards” on the front–our sponsor of the team shirts…yes, San Jose actually had orchards back then).
One lesson that I came away with from my early years was this: You can’t win them all. Certainly there is nothing wrong with having a desire to be successful, and I’m as competitive as the next guy ( I organize the fantasy football league for my company) but it’s important for all of us that we recognize there will be losses throughout our career—that’s a given. And, when we don’t measure up on a particular objective or task, there may also be criticism.
When it does happen, be prepared. Understand that it is likely not personal (usually it’s not…usually). And, understand that there is probably some merit to the criticism. Try to listen and not react immediately with a defensive response. Take time to understand what is being said, why it’s being said to you, and how/when/where it can be corrected….the key here is to not give up! Don’t allow the criticism to be the “end of the story” for you. Take it as an opportunity, and truthfully, it’s okay to be a little thankful to the person that’s delivering the message–it may actually help you become better at what you do.
In the world today many of us are zealous participants in social media, posting our latest stuff online, texting constantly, writing emails by the score, and sending out updates through Twitter and Instagram….all valid forms of communication…none of which involves active listening on our part. It’s important for anyone’s career that they develop the ability to listen well. Valid criticism has a role in our lives. It can build us personally and professionally, depending on how we choose to listen and learn through it. Always be open to hearing another person’s perspective, insight or measure of your performance. By listening well, you will not only learn something new about yourself, but in addition you will be giving yourself an opportunity to grow.