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How to Handle Surprise Criticism

| December 7, 2010

by Jim Bruce

Today’s Reading, “How to Handle Surprise Criticism”, focuses on feedback that comes as a surprise, even as a shock, from out of nowhere, about an issue you haven’t even perceived.

In this piece, Peter Bergman, speaker, writer, and consultant on leadership, says that to take such surprise criticism productively, you need a game plan.  He goes on to say that as you listen and your adrenaline begins to flow, you need to pause, take a deep breath, and:

1.  Look beyond your feelings.  While the criticism is (usually meant to be) constructive, it can also feel painful and personal.  You first need to acknowledge – to yourself – the feelings of hurt, anger, and everything else that is flying through your mind, name them, and then put them aside so that the noise they create in your brain doesn’t drown out your hearing the message.

2.  Look beyond the delivery of the feedback.  Critical feedback is hard to deliver and not everyone can do it well.  No matter the delivery, the feedback will contain valuable insights.  Don’t confuse the delivery with the message, the valuable content.

3.  Don’t agree, or disagree;  just collect the data.  Let go of your immediate need to respond, to defend yourself.  The message is valuable.  It tells you how you are perceived.  Make sure you really get it.  Ask questions about what you are being told.  Solicit examples.  Say thank you.  And, after you have done your initial processing, explore the feedback with someone you truly trust.

4.  Later, after you have really digested the message, decide how you will go forward.  The data you have informs, but does not force your action.  Think about what the data is telling you, examine the options that are available to you, think them through as scenarios, and only then make choices about if, what, when, and how you want to change.

Feedback/Criticism is a fantastic gift.  Make sure you take the time and exert the patience to get the message, evaluate it, explore options for change, reflect on the options, and only then decisively act.  That will get for you the most value possible from the feedback.


.  .  .  .  .     jim