Nobody likes to receive criticism, believe it or not, even some of the most critical people find it hard when it comes to dealing with constructive criticism in a positive way. But it’s a necessary part of growth. It seems, no matter how self-aware you become, criticism can still sting. But criticism is valuable and necessary if we’re to learn, do better, and improve ourselves. The people who give constructive criticism are good to have around for your development, and good for improving standards, even if it doesn’t always feel like it at that moment. With that in mind, it’s important to learn how to handle constructive criticism in a positive way.
What Is Constructive Criticism?
It’s important to note that not all criticism is the same. Constructive criticism comes with good intent. The purpose of constructive criticism is to drive improvement. Whether it’s your boss giving you feedback on how you could have handled a particular situation or conversation better, or a colleague telling you how you could improve a presentation you’re both working on, it’s about giving you constructive feedback that you can use to improve yourself and your performance.
The other type of criticism is anything but constructive. In fact, it’s downright destructive. This kind of criticism is meant to tear you down, undermine your confidence, demean, or belittle. This type of criticism is not intended to help you or benefit you in any way. The strategies for dealing with destructive criticism are not the same ones you would use when handling constructive criticism.
The good news is that although you might get defensive, which is a very common and normal reaction to criticism, you’re often dealing with the constructive type of criticism, even if it’s difficult to take.
EQ And Dealing With Criticism
Being able to handle constructive criticism in the best way relies on having a well developed emotional inelegance ( Also known as EQ or emotional quotient). According to an article in Positive Psychology, a simple definition of emotional intelligence describes your ability to monitor your own emotions as well as the emotions of others, to distinguish between and label different emotions correctly, and to use emotional information to guide your thinking and behavior and influence that of others (Goleman, 1995; Mayer & Salovey, 1990).
What’s more According to success.com’s Rhett Power (2017), there are seven qualities that best describe employees and leaders with a high EQ. These are:
- They aren’t afraid of change. They understand it’s a fact of life, and they’re quick to adapt;
- They’re self-aware. They know what they’re good at, what they can work on, and what kinds of environments suit them best;
- They’re empathetic. They can easily relate to others and understand what they are going through;
- They’re committed to quality but understand that perfection is an impossible standard;
- They’re balanced and able to have a healthy professional and personal life;
- They’re curious and open-minded, and they love to explore the possibilities;
- They’re gracious, grateful, and happy.
Looking at these 7 points, it’s not difficult to see why someone with a high EQ would be great at dealing with constructive criticism.
How People With High EQ Handle Constructive Criticism.
1. They remember the purpose of feedback
According to success.com‘s Rhett Power, one of the 7 qualities of employees and leaders with high EQ is that they are committed to quality. When you receive constructive feedback, remember that the purpose of it is not to be mean or hurtful, but it’s to help you improve and push yourself to a higher standard. If you can hold this thought and remember that there is good intent that will benefit you, this is a good first step to handling the criticism in a positive way.
2. They’re curious and keep an open mind
People with high EQs are curious and open-minded. If you’re curious and open-minded this means you ask questions and truly listen deeply to the other person. You listen to really understand and you don’t assume you know. If you listen to constructive criticism with an open and curious mind, you’ll be more focused on what you need to improve and what your next steps might be, and how you can implement the suggestions, rather than focusing on any negative feelings.
3. They’re flexible and adapt
This might not sound like a strategy for dealing with criticism, but when you’re flexible, you can adapt. This means, even if you’ve been working hard on a presentation, speech, essay, process, or anything else for that matter, you’ll take the criticism on board, see the value in it and be flexible enough to change the approach, style, or whatever is needed to improve, rather than getting defensive. This can be hard, especially if you’ve been doing something a certain way for a long time, or if you’ve put your heart and soul into something.
4. They respond and don’t react
One of my first jobs out of University was in a recruitment agency. I had no experience but I was keen and eager to learn. To help me learn, my manager would listen to me making cold calls and after every call, he would tell me exactly what I did wrong on the call and what needed to be improved. This was one of the best lessons I’ve ever had on how to take criticism. The biggest lesson I learned about how to handle constructive criticism then was not to react.
Of course, hearing my shortcomings after each and every call was tough to take, but if I’d have retorted, tried to explain myself, moaned about how I had literally been doing this for a minute, I never would have learned anything. To be honest, I doubt I would have been in the job for more than a day.
In that situation, I knew that I had a lot to learn. I knew that I needed to improve. I also knew better than to react in a negative way to someone who was just trying to teach me.
Those with high EQ are self-aware. They’re able to monitor and manage their emotions, as well as having empathy and being able to notice the emotions in others.
When we receive constructive criticism, our instinct is to react. We want to defend ourselves. But if you let your emotions at that moment lead the way, and you react before ever listening and understanding what’s being said, you won’t hear and you won’t benefit from the feedback.
You can only form a response once you’ve listened carefully and fully and heard the other person.
5. They ask the right questions
Constructive criticism is a time for learning and asking questions is one of the best ways to learn. The questions you ask will be specific to the criticism you receive and to the topic at hand, however, the right questions to use are open probing questions to help you go deeper.
[Related: 35 Powerful Questions To Coach Yourself]
6. They’re gracious and grateful
If you’ve ever been asked to provide some constructive feedback on someone, perhaps for 360° feedback, then you know how much you think about it and how seriously you take it. Therefore, when someone has taken the time to give you constructive criticism, although it might not feel like it, they’ve done something very thoughtful, so say thank you.
Think about constructive criticism as someone giving us an opportunity to learn and improve, and this is something to be thankful for.
7. They follow up
The only way to know if you’ve improved is through further feedback. If someone is giving you constructive criticism, chances are that they’ll be open to giving it again. Make it official. Ask if you can have a follow-up with them once you’ve made the necessary changes.