Do the words professional criticism make you shake? If so, you're not alone — a 2011 survey found that up to 31 percent of respondents have been told more than once that they don't take criticism well. Like it or not, criticism at work is a fact of life, and armed with the right skills, you can turn a moment of criticism into one that builds your career. The next time you're criticized at work, use these four tips:
1. Remember that it's not about you. Professional criticism is just that: professional. When faced with criticism, take a deep breath and remain calm. Don't make excuses, go on the defensive, or indulge in knee-jerk reactions, Instead, remind yourself that the boss or colleague making the critique is likely doing so not in response to who you are as a person, but in an effort to improve your performance at work. When you approach a critique with an open mind and a thick skin, you open yourself up to a conversation instead of a barrage of one-sided criticism.
2. Listen carefully. Before responding to professional criticism, listen closely to the person giving it. Your listening prowess will let the person giving the critique know that you care — and you may just learn something along the way. In fact, up to 85 percent of what we learn is learned through listening.
3. Ask follow-up questions. Get the most out of your critique session by asking follow-up questions. For example, if your boss says she's unhappy with your reporting skills, ask what she expects from an excellent report. Follow-up questions like these are a great training opportunity. Don't be shy — the right questions can help you turn a general critique into a specific career builder.
4. Take advantage. Even a silly-sounding criticism can contain a world of opportunity. Think about it: It's a chance to demonstrate a sense of professionalism by remaining cool in the face of criticism and show off your listening skills. In addition, follow-up questions and any follow-through actions are opportunities to showcase your prowess as a communicator and as a skilled worker to your superiors.
Ultimately, handling criticism at work is a vital business skill. Build it up over time, and you'll become a stronger professional. In fact, embracing workplace criticism and transforming it into meaningful action is one of the marks of a business leader. So square your shoulders, take a deep breath and take criticism as it comes. It just may help boost your career.