10 Professional Ways to Receive Criticism and Feedback
The other evening I was having dinner at my favorite local burger joint when I witnessed a master class in how to receive criticism from, of all things, a 16-year old waitress. It was a busy Friday night and an elderly lady at the booth next to me was intent on giving the waitress a piece of her mind. While the woman unloaded on the poor girl, the waitress stood still and just kept repeating, “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am” the whole time.
When it was over, the waitress apologized to the woman for not being happy with her meal … asked if there was anything else she needed … and then walked away without so much as an eye roll.
Satisfied, the old lady looked at me with a big grin and I went into “Dad” mode. I asked her in my most snarky voice if she REALLY thought a 16-year old waitress set the food prices, or had control over the nearly full restaurant and the time it took to get her food (it wasn’t THAT long, to be honest) and maybe young Peyton wasn’t the person to direct her anger upon?
Unlike my waitress, very few people can take criticism well. We don’t like to be judged and we definitely don’t like to have any warts exposed. There’s a deep-seated need to feel good about ourselves and the work we do. Unfortunately, any kind of criticism upsets our balance. That causes defensiveness and anger to become our initial reaction.
Now … sometimes others don’t deliver criticism well. It’s like they forget the “constructive” part when providing feedback. For your sake at the office, whether the other person intended to offend you or not, act as if the criticism came from a good place. Like, from your grandma.
1. Listen first and respond later rather than reacting in the heat of the moment
2. Be quiet and listen to what is being said, even if you don’t agree. Avoid hostile questions and arguments about facts. Listen for both what is said and what is not said.
3, View the feedback in a positive light. View feedback as a gift to help with individual and team development. Put a positive spin on feedback by referring to it as “Live and Learns” or something that sounds positive.
4. Look for the truth in every message—their truth as well as your own. Remember, there are two sides to every story, so be sure to think about it from the other person’s perspective. In Japanese negotiation, they force themselves to look at all sides of a situation.
5. Ask questions if you’re unclear on details
6. Separate the messenger from the message to maintain positive relationships. Don’t kill the messenger as they often did in ancient times.
7. Practice receptive posture. A receptive posture should be open—stand straight but not rigid.
8. Keep other nonverbal actions positive or neutral. Do not frown, wrinkle your brows, or cross your arms. Use open hand movements and open arms, and don’t cross your legs when trying to convey openness. Nod at appropriate times, and provide vocal reinforcement such as, “Uh huh” and “Tell me more …”
9. Convey genuine gratitude. Thank the person for the feedback, and say it as if you mean it. It helps if you can follow up with them later to show how you are putting the feedback to use (what you are changing, doing differently, etc.).
10. Wait to decide what to do with the feedback. Separate the act of receiving feedback from deciding what actions to take with it. Save evaluation and critique of the feedback for later once you’ve had a chance to think about it and digest it. Request time to follow up.
Receive criticism graciously and remain calm. Listen without reacting. Ask questions. Keep your non-verbals in check. And, try to stay open-minded and grateful.
Oh … by the way, after the cranky woman left, I noticed that my waitress’s eyes were a little red and puffy when she came back to my table with my check. She had obviously been in the back room crying. I told her how proud I was of the way she handled the situation, told her manager as well and left her a $20 tip on a $12 tab. Nobody messes with the waiters and waitresses at my burger place!