How to Handle 'Constructive Criticism'

Some feedback is hard to hear, but it's important you handle it well and turn it into a positive. With the right attitude, you can learn from it.

Constructive criticism can be hard to take, because it feels like a direct personal attack on your abilities. Feeling bitter or angry is a natural reaction, even though we all know deep down that feedback improves us in the long-run. You need to take it on the chin and move on in a positive way, because one day you'll look back, see the benefits and reap the reward.

The first thing you need to do, the instant you hear negative feedback, is curb your gut reaction. People can feel a whole range of emotions – hurt feelings, anger, resentment against the other person, deep upset. Whatever your first reaction is, rein it in. You don't want the other person to know you've been stung, because you want to remain professional.

Secondly – and this is the hardest part – you need to wholeheartedly thank them. Even if you don't feel like thanking them in the moment, it's important you express gratitude and let them know there are no hard feelings between you. Tell them you appreciate the time they've taken to review things and discuss them with you.

Next, ask for a bit more of a breakdown of the feedback. This isn't a debate and you shouldn't go on the defensive or offensive. It's simply a chance to pinpoint specific issues and discuss possible solutions to them.

Finally, ask for a follow-up session to review the changes you make on the back of the constructive criticism. If you arrange a catch-up several days or weeks down the line, you have a chance to process the feedback, come to terms with it and decide how to implement it day-to-day.


Keep your initial reaction in check
Thank them
Ask for a breakdown of feedback
Ask for a follow-up session