I have been asked to provide my perspective on accepting criticism. I'm happy to do so but I’m probably not the best person as I dislike (hate) it when people tell me something that they don't like about me or my work. “If you don’t like it, say nothing” I tell myself.
I first need to differentiate criticism from feedback. Feedback is about providing positive and negative comments in a way that is non-confrontational. Criticism is about passing judgement and fault finding. Criticism is not something you should ever do nor should you ever accept. I am going to talk about negative feedback.
Members of Toastmasters provide negative feedback that adheres to the strict rules of that organisation. The praise sandwich is a way of providing negative feedback without offending - here's what I like about what you said, here's where you can do better, here's another good thing about what you have said. This method of feedback is colloquially termed the sh*t sandwich. While it suits that organisation it is unsuitable in the workplace.
When I provide presentations and services to organisations, I always seek feedback to ensure that I am meeting the needs of the company and of the attendees. I take on board some of the suggestions to improve my programme. Unfortunately I have a tendency to always go to the negative comments first rather than focus on what I did well.
I know why I do this, we all do it. We want to know what bad things people are saying about us and if it is negative we want to make excuses as to why it occurred. I still cannot read negative feedback without it affecting me in some way. My amygdala sends signals to my brain and the brain says ‘defend yourself’. My heart races, adrenaline pumps through my veins and I just want to get revenge on the person who wrote the feedback. Don’t do it!
All of us have the desire to do our best, to be the best, and importantly to please everyone. The only way to be the best and to improve yourself is to read the negative feedback and take what we can and modify what we do. It's not easy though is it?
I find the easiest way to accept criticism is to read it once then leave it. My brain does a few backflips as I reflect on what an idiot that person must be, then I go back and read the feedback again. Guess what, it is not as bad as I first thought it was and there are a couple of good suggestions that I could use to develop myself.
A wise man once told me, “Remember, it is just their opinion”. One organisation I work for operates on an 80% rule, provided 80% of the attendees like what I do then they are happy. Not a bad rule although I would like to be up around 90%!
The next time you receive negative feedback, read it once, leave it, come back to it, and look to see what you can change. Only change something if it does not interfere with your own values and remember it is just one person’s opinion.