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Take Constructive Criticism Gracefully

September 2, 2016

Taking Constructive Criticism Gracefully

I was watching Gilmore Girls last night and the issue of taking constructive criticism came up. If you’re a fan of the show (and who isn’t?), you’ll know that Rory Gilmore is a consummate overachiever. She generally excels at her schoolwork and is often held up as a model for others. But, in this episode, after getting acclaims from her family about her writing for the school newspaper (at Yale), she then discovers that the editor of the paper isn’t happy with her latest round of work. Or the next round. And she’s faced with having to hear (rare) constructive criticism of her work.

Hearing constructive criticism is hard for all of us. Especially, if like Rory, you’ve put a lot of time and effort into your work. And even harder if you’re primarily used to hearing positive assessments.

But, don’t worry. I have some foolproof tips to help you receive constructive criticism gracefully.

Listen.

Don’t speak.

Just listen.

Easy, right?

I know, I know, you want to defend yourself and help the other person see how what you did was, in fact, perfectly right and awesome. But, stopping that first reaction will do you more good. Ask questions if you need clarification. Repeat back to the person what you think you heard and capture it in your notes. Then thank the person for giving you the feedback. Remember, this conversation may be hard for them as well.

Afterwards, sit with the feedback and try to see if you can agree with any or all of it. If you’re too riled up at the moment, put it aside and look at it later. Making time to follow up with the person is also important. It’ll help you realize the many benefits of constructive criticism and let the person know you really value their opinion.

Now, I’m not saying that all critiques you receive will be right. But, think of them as opportunities to learn and grow. That mindset helps me be really thankful to people who do take the time and thought to comment on my work, whether it’s positive or negative. Are you listening?

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Julie Remde, Associate