criticism, professionalism, communication, being confident, job, internship
CAREER / 14 December 2016
Don’t Let Criticism Get you Down: 10 Steps to Handling Criticism Like a Pro
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Hannah Son
Content Writer
Redondo Beach

“People who ask confidently get more than those who are hesitant and uncertain. When you've figured out what you want to ask for, do it with certainty, boldness and confidence. Don't be shy or feel intimidated by the experience. You may face some unexpected criticism, but be prepared for it with confidence.” Jack Canfield

Let’s get real. Handling criticism is tough for everyone –especially at work. Even the most confident professionals are phased by unexpected criticism in the workplace. Whether it’s getting feedback from the boss or unsolicited opinions from overstepping coworkers, Being able to hear people’s opinions can improve our relationships, performance, and job satisfaction. Here’s a guide to navigating all forms of criticism whether they are constructive or not:


1. Know that it is inevitable

 According to Elbert Hubbard, “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” No matter how great of a fit you are for your job and company, feedback in the workplace is inevitable. Every employee will get criticism, so if you do anything, say anything, and are anything, the chances of you getting feedback are pretty high. Know that everyone at some point has received (and probably dished out) criticism. In the end, your job is compensated time spent working alongside professional, (hopefully) friendly, yet transient individuals. 

What i’m trying to say is that criticism is a part of life and in the wise words for Miley Cyrus’ alter ego Hannah Montana, “Nobody’s Perfect.” If a person is asking you to change, they are investing in you, and it’s because you’re valuable to them in some way. Even though it’s difficult sometimes, know your worth and try to not to sweat the critics. You’ve got better things to do.


2. Admit it

It’s hard to walk away from a less than stellar performance review at work feeling good about yourself. Your behavior is a major part of your identity, so naturally, when someone tells you to change, their suggestion (no matter how minor)  can feel like a huge personal attack. Even if it’s hard to accept, sometimes you have to be honest with yourself. Can’t admit you missed the deadline?  Afraid to own up to letting your team down? Embrace your mistakes, we are all human. Nobody can “do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” Next time, when you are criticised, for something you know you did wrong, own up to it and focus all of your energy into getting better.


3. Brush yourself off

Receiving criticism can be nerve wracking, frustrating and even embarrassing, but it’s all for the better. According to Orrin Woodward, “attitude is the ability to reframe the experience to empower you to future victories.” Next time you find yourself stressing over some professional feedback – be it constructive or undeserving, reframe it to your benefit. Don’t throw yourself a pity party, remove yourself from the situation and focus on what’s being critiqued. Keep in mind that the criticism represents just one person’s point of view. If somebody says you’re too small to be a basketball player, start working on those free throws! 


4. Stay calm and carry on

Getting defensive can be a natural instinct but in this case, it can hurt your professionalism. Arguing will almost always make you look unreceptive and reflect badly on your work etiquette. If you need to respond to a criticism, make sure you do so i a professional manner. Here are two examples of ways not to respond:

a. Don’t say “I know” 

Hearing this phrase will instantly put your critic on the defensive and turn what could have been a productive, civil dialogue into an argument. Try replacing it with a more positive phrase like, “I see” — sounds better, right? 

b. Don’t say “I’m sorry” 

Sarah Ockler says, “Would ‘sorry’ have made any difference? Does it ever? It’s just a word. One word against a thousand actions.”  If the criticism is deserved, don’t just say sorry, make a change. Saying you’re sorry is unnecessary unless the situation absolutely calls for an apology. If your boss suggests that your work has been lackluster recently, avoid the  knee-jerk reaction to say you’re sorry. “I’m sorry” makes you seem insecure and irresolute. Try replacing the phrase “I’m sorry” with a reframed response. Something like, “Of course, I will make that change,” promises a certain level of proactivity, accountability, politeness and professionalism.


 Instead of giving into the initial urge go on the defensive, take a moment to regroup your thoughts and like Selena Gomez says, “kill’em with kindness.” This way, you maintain your professionalism and come out as the bigger person. Criticism can be difficult to receive, but it can also be extremely beneficial for your professional development.

How do you handle criticism? Write a comment below – I’d love to hear your take. If you are interested in reading more posts like these, check out our Career Buzz blog here.