4 Ways to Use Criticism as Career Capital

Let’s face it, no matter how nicely someone may criticize you, it’s never a pleasant experience and can easily leave you feeling bruised, defensive, or both.  But criticism can be incredibly valuable if you learn how to sort the wheat from the chaff, leave the bruised emotions behind and take the feedback to improve yourself for the future. Here are four suggestions for handling criticism, and extracting the value it holds without becoming deflated.

1. Analyze

Just because someone’s given you feedback doesn’t mean you have to take it. Step back for a second and determine where it’s coming from, why someone might be giving it (to serve you or to diminish you and inflate themselves), and what elements of the feedback might be helpful. Did you falter in a presentation to the executive team? Did you lose confidence in a meeting because you didn’t have all the facts? Get details of where you stumbled and work out the core issue. Take what’s useful — leave the rest. 

2. Reframe

All criticism triggers are natural defenses because they strike at our self-identity. But even if it’s given poorly or seems particularly harsh, don’t take criticism as a personal assault on your self-worth. Rather take it on as “one data point to integrate” among all the positive feedback you’ve received. Enlarge your perspective to view feedback as a useful stepping stone to building professional success – it could well change the trajectory of your career.

3. Get specifics

This is especially important if you suspect that you really are being unfairly targeted for any reason. Ask for specific examples of what your manager is referring to, and what he or she believes would benefit you to do differently.  The more explicit they can be, the better. Make sure you walk away with clarity about exactly what you need to do more or less of. Finally, if you haven’t already, make it a habit to get everything in writing. This will protect you if you decide to move forward and file a formal complaint with your HR department. 

4. Work Smarter

You can get enormous value from constructive feedback if you approach it with the right mindset. As Hillary Clinton once said “Critics can be your best friends if you listen to them, and learn from them, but don’t get dragged down by them.

So don’t let your pride keep you from extracting the value feedback can hold and from working on the behaviors others feel hold you back. After all, often other people see in us things we can’t to see in ourselves!  


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MARGIE WARRELL has come a long way from her childhood growing up on a small farm in rural Australia. Today is a thought leader in human potential and is passionate about helping people live and lead more bravely. Drawing on her background in business, psychology and coaching, she runs courage-building programs to organizations worldwide such as NASA, Ernst & Young, Oracle, The Body Shop and The UN Foundation. An adventure traveller who has worked and lived around the globe, Margie is mom to four rowdy kids and author of three bestselling books: Find Your Courage, Stop Playing Safe, and Brave.

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