Leading Ladies - Taking Criticism

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"Your e-learning module paused right in the middle! I had to close the window and reopen it." My colleague said as I walked into the office on a dreary Thursday morning.

"Really? That's the first time I've heard of that," I said already feeling tired and uninterested. "Sounds like an internet connection issue to me."

"My internet is the fastest possible internet out there. It looked like an error in the course. You probably need to fix it, whatever the problem is."

"But no one else has reported this issue so unless it's common issue there's not much I can do about it. I don't have time."

"I was just trying to give you some feedback..." he said.

This conversation makes me cringe.

The reason behind my bad mood was based on personal reasons. I was tired. I was fed-up. I wasn't focused. I hadn't had my free coffee and homemade pastry breakfast yet. But these are all excuses.

It's not how I wish to be portrayed and certainly not how I would expect to be treated if I was on the other side of this exchange regardless of the situation. Dismissing legitimate complaints or criticism even if you aren't 'in the mood' for it is not acceptable. 

My ethos on dealing with criticism is treat the critic like a customer. Regardless of whether it's a friend, family member or colleague. It's a three step process:

  1. Listen. So basic. And yet so easy to get wrong. I wasn't listening to my colleague. Before he had even finished his sentence I had switched into defense mode. To listen to a critic you need to be patient. Hear them out even if you disagree. Be empathetic and try to see where they're coming from.

  2. Affirm. Whether it's with the answer they were looking for, to apologise or to let them know you will look into it or try to improve; give them an immediate response. It doesn't need to be detailed initially. If you need time to fix an issue or simply don't know how to approach the matter let them know they've given you something valuable to think about and give yourself some time to consider the criticism in full. Often times, just letting them know you've listened is enough.

  3. Reflect. Take the time to think about what you've been told. Is it constructive? Has is highlighted a serious issue? Is it something you can deal with immediately or something you need to improve on over time? Form a plan in your head of how to attack the problem and take action. Don't take it personally either. It's always another step towards improving yourself professionally.

Here's how that conversation should have gone:

"Your e-learning module paused right in the middle! I had to close the window and reopen it." My colleague said as I walked into the office.

"Really? That's the first time I've heard of that," I said putting down my things and switching my work brain on. "What part did it pause at?"

"Right in the middle. My internet was working fine but it stopped and I had to restart it. It's probably something you should look into."

"You're right. Let me run a few tests and try to figure out what's going on. I'll let you know how I get on." I say filling in my mental 'to do list'.

"Excellent. Let me make you a coffee."

Well, I can dream, can't I?