Food for Thought: Managing your critics and yourself
Someone once said “Blessed is the man who can take the bricks thrown at him and build a strong foundation.”
Although nobody likes criticism even when you know you have made a mistake, try to view it as an opportunity rather than a failure. If you do so you will learn a lot. Instead of letting constrictive criticism make you feel incompetent, angry or just plain awful, use it as a learning tool.
Many supervisors don’t give criticism in a tactful manner. But don’t fret: it will be easier when you use Dr. Lebedun’s 4 A Formula - Anticipate, Ask Questions, Agree With Something and Analyze.
ANTICIPATE. Accept the fact everyone makes mistakes and you will probably be criticized for yours. You anticipate by asking yourself “What can I learn from this criticism?” Take the wind out of the sails of criticism by admitting your mistake first, before anyone has a chance to say something to you. This makes your supervisor’s job easier and makes you appear more professional.
ASK QUESTIONS. Many times people who criticize are letting off stream and may be exaggerating the problem. This may be especially true when the criticism contains the words “always” and “never”. Therefore it is important to pinpoint the criticism by asking questions like these: “What part of the report didn’t you like?” “How can I improve?” “Could you give me an example?” Asking questions accomplishes two things: it gives yo specific information on how you can improve, and it teaches people they will have to be more specific when they criticize you.
AGREE WITH SOMETHING. When faced with criticism most people focus on the negative part of the feedback that may or may not be true and ignore the rest. This doesn’t solve ant problems and you don’t learn anything. When you agree to one part of the criticism, you become open to learning. An easy way to agree is to say something like this: “You might be right , my report doesn’t have all the details.” You don’t have to agree with everything; even agreeing with one small aspect of criticism will create an atmosphere of teamwork. The focus can then become how you’ll work together to solve the problem, which lessens your feelings of being attacked.
ANALYZE. Finally take a break and analyze what you have heard. You need time to process the information, determine if it is a valid criticism and decide what you will do to solve the problem or correct the mistake. If this is a complaint you have heard repeatedly, think about what you can learn about the situation so it doesn’t happen again.
The benefits of the 4-A Formula are that you will look for solutions rather than excuses and you will be in control of your emotions. You will also appear more professional. Another factor that may prove helpful is to take control of the feedback process. If you wait for feedback to come to you, it tends to be less positive or supportive than if you seek it out. Then ask yourself if the criticism is a fact or an opinion and be honest with the answer.
Constructive criticism serves one purpose - to give the person more perspective and help him/her do a better job. A good critic spends as much energy or more describing the strong points of a person’s performance.
So consider the source from which it comes.
Dr. Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW, LCPC is a psychotherapist in Thompson Falls. She can be contacted at 827-0700.