5 Steps to Effectively Responding to Criticism at Work

5 Steps to Effectively Responding to Criticism at Work

Hard wired in our brains from the time humans first walked on earth is a “fight” or “flight” response. Even though our brains have evolved over the eons we still share this response with animals. It is our most basic response and was responsible for our survival at a time when we competed with wild beasts for food.

Today, however, few things are a matter of life and death, but our fight or flight response is still triggered in many situations. One of these can happen when we are receiving criticism. The response can very according to who is giving the criticism and how much power we perceive that person having over us. The more power we see the person having, the more likely we will feel a strong flight response. The fight response will be stronger the more we feel that the criticism is unjustified or unfair.

Whatever the situation, the fight or flight response does not serve us well when we are criticized. Whether we feel we deserve the criticism or not, there are techniques that we can help us make the most of a situation.

Prepare yourself

Chances are we have, or will, receive negative feedback at work at some point in our lives. Like any other situation coming up we can prepare ourselves. Think of a time in the past when you received some unwanted feedback about your performance. How did you feel, and react? If you had a chance to do it over again, would you handle the situation differently? In your mind replay the scenario in a way that would result in the outcome you wanted. If it helps, role- plays with a trusted friend, colleague, or family member. Come up with some responses that would help keep you on track that you can call up in future situations. Come up with a word, sound, phrase, or song that will remind you of the ideal situation that you had envisioned and repeat it whenever the situation comes up again.

Wait out strong emotions

We feel before we think. To our old reactive brain, criticism will feel like we are being attacked.

It will see negative feedback as a verbal attack. This may bring out powerful emotions that can temporarily cause us to react before our thinking brain kicks in. The good news is that these strong emotions will quickly subside as our rational brains take over. If we feel these strong emotions coming up the first thing to do is give ourselves time before we react. Take a couple of deep breaths, count to ten, or do whatever you can to distract yourself. If the emotions are still highly volatile ask for a time out and tell the person you will get back to them once you’ve had a chance to collect your thoughts. Give yourself a chance to respond, rather than react. Rather than reacting in an emotional state, responding gives us a chance to use our thinking powers and increases the chances of getting the outcome that we want.

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Source: Steven Aitchison