Do This One Thing to Improve How You Handle Constructive Criticism

Updated 05/08/19
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As much as we're committed to bettering ourselves, when others give their two cents about where they see room for self-improvement, we're typically displeased with receiving feedback. In fact, we'd rather not hear it. Even when the constructive criticism is solicited—say for a performance review at the office—the results are often awkward and ineffective. Instead of encouraging us to take the shared insight and improve our ways, we're more likely to deflect the advice or even discredit the judgment of the person dishing it out.

New York Magazine's Science of Us recently explored why we have a hard time accepting constructive criticism, citing the work of psychologist Robert Nash, a lecturer at Aston University in the UK, who explained the science behind these tendencies in a column for the BBC. "None of our options really seem very appealing," he wrote. "Failing to reach our goals makes us feel bad, but so does hearing critique that could help us to achieve those goals."

So how do you correct your gut reaction to reject constructive criticism? Nash recommends prepping yourself before you're in a situation where you'll be receiving feedback. "Perhaps the solution to this dilemma is to reflect on why we feel so positively about ourselves in the first place," he writes. Before you enter into a situation where you know you'll be on the receiving end of constructive criticism, consider the positive traits you most value in yourself and remember past occasions where you were successful and acknowledged for your performance because of these traits. "It might help," Nash summarized, "to put on some emotional armor beforehand, ensuring that our positive self-regard can stay intact." By bringing the positive traits about which you're proud to the forefront of your mind, you'll be better equipped to hear you're not necessarily as strong in certain other areas.

For more advice, discover some other tips for handling workplace criticism like a boss.

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