Communication in the workplace

Receiving Feedback

Everyone finds himself or herself on the receiving end of criticism from time to time. When this happens, the most important thing is to remain calm and fight the natural instinct to become paranoid or defensive. Here are five tips that can help you to handle criticism and turn it into a positive learning experience.

  1. Listen. Keep an open mind. Everyone makes mistakes, and we can all use improvement in some areas. Resist the temptation to argue or make excuses.
  2. Consider the source. Does the speaker have the authority, knowledge, and expertise to give you this feedback? Does he or she have an ulterior motive? (Be careful not to invent one, though, just to make yourself feel better.)
  3. Ask for specific examples. Don't accept generalities such as "poor," "disappointing," or "lousy." Politely ask the speaker to tell you exactly what is wrong. Questions like, "Exactly what was wrong with the presentation" or a request such as, "Help me to understand what you mean by 'poor'" should help you to get some useful information.
  4. Evaluate the criticism. If it is valid, accept it gracefully and with a positive attitude. Tell the speaker you appreciate his or her comments and be enthusiastic about your willingness and ability to use the suggestions to improve your performance.
  5. Keep the useful information, but let go of the negative feelings. Don't dwell on the embarrassment of being criticized. Hold your head up high and move on.

Receiving Compliments

It is not arrogant or immodest to accept a compliment, as long as you do it gracefully. In fact, false modesty is not only unbecoming, but can be insulting to the judgment of the person who paid you the compliment.

"Thank you" is always a polite and correct way to acknowledge a compliment. Don't add "It was nothing" or some other qualifying statement that diminishes you and your accomplishment.

It's always appropriate to acknowledge others who were instrumental in your success: "I couldn't have done it without Sally and Ted," or to share something valuable you learned from the experience: "Researching that area was great for me. I learned so much about the project."

The Art of Giving Feedback and Compliments