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The Best Response to Criticism

Elbert Hubbard

“To escape criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.

Elbert Hubbard

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Turn The Heat Around

Make it your critic's job to prove themselves to you, rather than the other way around. 

99% of critics disappear when confronted with any kind of rigorous intellectual challenge....

Preparing For Battle

No one is going to engage in a serious debate with you when you look prepared for an academic beat down.

If someone attacks your work in a nasty way, don't get angry. Say instead something like:  “it’s interesting that you should say that because my research (cite some book or blog post) seems to suggest that the opposite is actually true. Is there some study or paper you can point me to that would validate your claim?”

Get Inspired

Use the criticism of your past work to generate ideas for new projects. 

For example, researching a response to a critic may lead you to read about or experience something you never would have before, which can open the door for all sorts of new experiments in your professional or personal projects.

Embrace Your Imperfections

It's freeing and relaxing to stop holding yourself to insanely high standards. Success overwhelmingly requires failure and perseverance, not perfection.

So relax your standards ...

Pick Up The Phone

Shame works better if we keep it secret. So find the courage to do the counterintuitive thing and tell someone what happened -- invariably those conversations end with laughter.

Give Your Rants a Name, Too

Instead of feeling like it's some kind of valid feedback, this highlights how consistent the stories are. 

We have pretty much the same thoughts today that we had yesterday, which should clue us into the fact that they're habits, not necessarily truths.

Criticism is a good thing
It illustrates what you're doing right, what you're doing wrong, and what you can do to become better at your job.

No matter how good or how seasoned you are, there's always room to grow.

Dealing with criticism that cuts
  • Distance Yourself From the Situation to allow you to calm down. Do not react or take it personally. 
  • Try to Understand Your Boss's Intentions. Is he's upset with your performance or exceptionally stressed or prone to say things he doesn't fully mean?
  • Summarize the Criticism. Repeat back exactly what you think she's driving at. Try and word the criticism in a more positive light. "so you're saying I need to find a new work strategy so I can improve my performance?"
  • Explain Your Perspective. The more specific you can be here, the better. 

  • Engage in a Dialogue. Work together with your boss to hash out the unspoken details of the criticism.

  • Suggest an Action Plan and make sure to follow it.
  • Consider Giving Criticism of Your Own if the criticism is misdirected.  Tell your boss that his/her criticism was unwarranted or unhelpful, but suggest alternative strategies he/she can use in the future to make his/her criticism better.