Every one of us has to listen to criticism from time to time – from relatives and friends, colleagues, clients, partners or just strangers. Our reaction can be different depending on our character, age, temperament and education.
Sometimes we are just overwhelmed with the offence. What should we do in this situation? Can criticism be turned to your benefit? It can. If you use a magic formula that can neutralize any criticism. It sounds like: “yes – but – let’s…”.
Step one. Let’s say “Yes!”
If you hear criticism against you, whatever it sounds like, first of all, you need to cope with the initial emotional reaction and acknowledge the person’s right to this remark and their own opinion. We know from our own experience that it is not so easy to criticise openly. If another person pulls themselves up and told us about what they dislike, this means they are ready to talk and treat us personally and perspectives of our cooperation seriously. There are much more frankness and interest about such a behaviour than about silence and praise. The person who doesn’t care about us or our problems, will not look into them, instead, they will praise you formally or keep silent. However, the wish to make the “mistake correction” lets us know that they care about us and what we do.
That is why you should treat the criticism seriously, be ready to listen and discuss. You can even take the person’s side, agree with them: “Yes, this is an important issue”. When the person criticizes you, they expect you to resist – such is our nature. But when instead of hard resistance they hear “thank you”, they find themselves in the state of “positive confusion”. Anxiety and strain that the person had at the moment of criticism are replaced with the wish to discuss the matter calmly and thoroughly, to the point.
Assume we are criticized for unsatisfying work of our subordinates. What can be said in this case? “I am sorry that you are not satisfied with the work of our employees. Thank you for letting me know, I appreciate it.” – this way we let the person see that we have heard them, accept their discontent as a fact and show that we are interested in clearing the matter.
At the same time, our interest mustn’t be ostentatious. The same words but with another psychological implication – when in fact we don’t tolerate any criticism against ourselves and simply agree with it formally and say the right words – can even be treated as a taunt.
Replying with “yes” to criticism, we are ready to find out what exactly has happened: “I would appreciate if you explained what had happened”. We start to talk more to the point and enter into dialogue.
Step two. “But…”
When we understood another person’s opinion, it’s time to turn to your own one. Criticism doesn’t always coincide with our view of the situation. That is why it is important to express your position, make arguments and counter-arguments. However, this should be objective information, not an attempt to justify yourself. So our opponent can see that we are trying to figure out what has happened: “Yes, I know you had to wait. But according to the adopted regulations, preparation of this document requires a certain time. This is a necessary requirement that must be observed…” In fact, people are ready to accept many “blunders” and “inconsistencies” if they are provided with a polite explanation of the reason for the matter and offered to discuss important facts. This will allow another person to look at the matter form a new side and take our opinion into consideration.
Our “but” helps us not to slip to the position “What can I do for you?”. Even accepting the other’s right to express criticism, we don’t have to “drag the mountain” if we believe that it is unnecessary.
Step three. “Let’s…”
After we have listened to the criticism and expressed your reasoned position, it is important to come down “to a common denominator” and try to find a solution together. To make the person understand that we are on the same side, we need to make concrete, constructive suggestions: “If it is convenient for you, our employees well note you beforehand about what documents need to be prepared…”.
If we reply to criticism in this sequence: “Yes – but – let’s…”, the negative feedback works for us and helps us not only to learn a lot of useful things and adjust our work but also improve our relations with the other person.
The right to a mistake
It is clear that criticism is to easy to listen to and even harder to accept it to our benefit. Some people treat even the smallest remark as a reason to break the relations, any negativity in their address as an offence. But the more advanced the person is the more different opinions about themselves and their work they accept. They understand that they may make mistakes. Accepting our right to mistakes, we don’t waste energy on hiding these mistakes from ourselves and other people. The less we are afraid of making a mistake, the less strain we feel and more chances for the success we have. If we are open to possible critical remarks against us, we broaden the limits of useful information and the circle of people who can provide it and thus we broaden our opportunities to move forward and develop.