Criticism is a necessary evil—hard to accept, but ultimately beneficial. The true problem with critical comments stems from the motivation that lies behind them, and this issue often manifests in the delivery of the remarks. Competition in the workplace can significantly contribute to negative feelings between co-workers and give rise to critical attacks. The most successful leaders are those who can hear the unkind words, determine what can be learned from them, and continue to move forward without letting emotions cloud their judgment or affect their performance. A positive spin can be put on even some of the most hurtful statements. These instances should always be treated as learning experiences. You’re learning something, no matter if it’s merely to guard yourself from the verbal attacks of particular peers or if it’s to better proofread the emails you send out.
Keep these tactics in mind when scathing remarks are thrown your way:
1. Don’t overreact. Try to remain calm, and remember to control your anger. Fighting back will only worsen the already unfortunate situation. Any unprofessional responses should be saved for an appropriate time or place, behind closed doors. Don’t forget that there is no room for a personal problem in a professional environment.
2. Seek an impartial opinion. Confide in a close friend or loved one who is far removed from the situation. You may find difficulty in determining what you can learn from a particular encounter because of your emotional investment. An unbiased confidant will be willing and able to pick out the potential positive aspects and offer advice on how to proceed.
3. Remain focused on your ultimate goal. Remember that you and your peers are working for the same company. Your short-term initiatives should be complementary, and your long-term objectives should be highly similar, if not exactly the same. Personal conflicts must always be put aside, not only for the betterment of the company, but also for the advancement of your career.
4. Keep a positive attitude. You’re learning. You’re moving forward. You’re succeeding. These are all good things. Don’t let a string of negative remarks distract you from your work. If your critics see that their words can’t affect you, the verbal attacks will lose their appeal.
5. Evaluate yourself. Be aware of your strengths and your weaknesses. Capitalize on the assets, and work diligently to minimize the shortcomings. If you’re already conscious of your faults, statements of criticism will have a much lesser impact.
While it’s important to shield yourself from the negative effects of criticism, you must remain open to the learning experiences such an opportunity may present. Even though the disapproval may prove difficult to accept, the benefits that can ultimately be gained will be long-lasting and significant.
Adapted from “How to Deal With Really Tough Criticism: Five Steps,” Christine M. Riordan, Forbes.com