The golden rules for receiving criticism

It's never easy, being given feedback that's critical. We take a look at Gael Lindenfield's advice


The golden rules for receiving criticism

Gael Lindenfield shares advice for receiving feedback.



You should have some awareness of the kind of things you are likely to be criticised for. Continue to ask for feedback on your work or general behaviour but do so assertively. don't invite a put-down or false reassurance, for example 'Am I doing this badly?'

Keep calm

Check your body for tension and take some slow controlled breaths.

Think positively

What the other person is saying may be useful feedback for you. Assertive people are not afraid of making mistakes and view them as a useful learning experience.

Stay in your Adult

The Adult is the part of your personality which can be rational and objective. Judge whether this criticism is

a) being given by someone whose opinion you value and

b) whether it is fair and constructive.

Use your Adult to remind you that it is aspects of your behaviour which are being criticised and it need not be a total rejection of you.

Listen carefully

Calmly reflect back to your critic what he or she has just said to

a) demonstrate that you are listening and

b) to check that you have heard correctly (because anxiety can impair our perceptive abilities temporarily, if not our actual hearing.)

Empathise with your critics

But don't sympathise with a put-down of yourself – for example 'It must be awful having to live with someone like me!' Instead say something like 'I can see that what I am doingis upsetting/frustrating for you…' or 'I understand that you've not been happy for some time with…'

Play for time

Play for time if necessary, especially if you feel yourself slipping out of your Adult, perhaps getting too scared or angry. Ask to meet later, suggest that you will then then be able to listen more attentively to what they are saying. You will then have a chance to calm down, review the facts and, if necessary, prepare your counter attack.

Protect yourself

If you have judged that the critic is being unfair or abusive towards you or the time and place may not be appropriate or convenient for you to have the conversation – for example, you may be trying to reserve your strength for an important meeting or you may be in a public place or feeling tired – then you need to be more assertive and protect yourself.

Ask for clarification

Get more information – for example, if your critic says, 'I don't think you will ever make a manager, the way you behave' then ask 'What exactly is it about my behaviour which makes you say that?' Using this technigue has the advantage of uncovering destructive, put-down behaviour which comes disguised as a caring enquiry or an innocuous comment too, for example 'Have you bought a new lipstick?' which sounds more like 'That lipstick looks awful on you' or 'Was there a lot of traffic then?' meaning 'You're late, again'.

Share your reaction

React to constructive criticism honestly,unless you have a special reason for not wishing to do so. Acknowledge the positive aspects. Say, for example, 'I feel a bit knocked out by what you have said but it has given me something to think about' or 'It's been useful for me to hear what you said, even though I can't agree with it'

Give your inner confidence a boost

Remind yourself of your own worth, your own values, the progress you are making and ask for support from the people in your life who love you, warts and all.

Work out an action plan if necessary

If the criticism has been valid and you want to change your behaviour, work out how you are going to do it. If the criticism was destructive and you don't agree with it but are still either hurt or immobilised by it, you will need to plan some self-protection techniques or explore the root cause of your reaction – for example, maybe the critic reminded you of someone esle critical, you mother or father or boss. This insight might be enough to free you or you may need to do some other self-development work on these other relationships so that they do not continue to disempower you. Seek help from a professional counsellor or therapist if you remain mystifued by your own behaviour.

From Super Confidence – Simple Steps To Build Your Confidence (Harper Thorsons, £8.99, out now) by psychotherapist Gael Lindenfield, one of the UK's leading self-development trainers and authors

Photograph: plainpicture/PhotoAlto

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Read How to develop mental grit on LifeLabs

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