You are going to receive criticism from countless people throughout your life. Life in the Army is no different; in fact, the culture of the Army is one full of criticism and condemnation. If you expect to make it far in your military career, you are going to have to be willing to accept criticism at some point or another. However, some are better than others at this. While we should loath to criticize anyone, not many others have that approach (see “Skills for Military Leaders: Techniques in Handling People”). Here are my Top 10 Tips for Accepting Criticism.
1. Consider the Source: Not all criticisms are created equal. Take the time to consider whether the source of criticism is actually interested in helping you improve. If they aren’t, simply take their “advice” with a large grain of salt. However, if the person is genuinely interested in your improvement, be sure to thoughtfully evaluate what they are saying before simply dismissing it.
2. You Have Two Ears and One Mouth for a Reason: Try to fight your urge to argue and rationalize your errors. Simply listen to what they have to say, soak it in, take from it what you need and drive on!
3. It Usually Isn’t Personal: Look at the situation objectively. This is very difficult because when you receive criticism it often involves something we work very hard at. Trust me on this, if you can detach yourself from your actions or work it makes the whole experience go over a lot more smoothly.
4. Keep Your Head: This can often be difficult when the other person is “hot-headed”. Be the better man (or woman) and let the other person do all the huffing and puffing. Make sure to let them know that you acknowledge their concerns and thank them for taking the time to bring the issue to light (even if you are thinking differently in your mind!).
5. Own Your Mistakes: If you are being criticized for a legit error on your part, don’t make excuses. As a leader, you are responsible for everything that you do and FAIL to do. Remember, denial may seem to resolve the issue for the moment, but it really hurts your personal growth as a leader.
6. Interact with the Other Person: Ask some clarifying questions. This is particularly helpful if the person is giving you shallow or unclear criticism. Creating dialogue between you and the other person creates a situation where a criticism becomes a discussion and fosters cooperation.
7. Look at it from Another Perspective: Criticism doesn’t have to be embarrassing or humiliating. Seek the opportunity of getting the good feedback that criticism offers. Always view moments like this as a moment where you are able to improve yourself.
8. Thank the Other Person: Difficult to do, but swallowing your pride can improve the relationship between you and another person. Especially if this person is interested in your improvement, you should, at least thank them for taking the time to help you.
9. Follow Up: A lot of criticism is a result of unclear task and purpose. While you may disagree that the other person did not provide a clear intent and you came up short, moments like that can be prevented by following up with your superiors. Talk with the other person and let them know how you have fixed the problem. Talk about what he/she expects from you so you are sure not to come up short.
10. TAKE ACTION! After you have had your butt handed to you, suck it up and drive on! This shows that you have actually listened to the person and are a go getter. Don’t let the other person think their words fell on deaf ears. Besides, you are a leader in the US Army…get out there and get it done!
FINAL THOUGHTS: I wish that I was able to write this post without having to admit that I learned these tips through personal experience. It is easy to take on your new position full throttle and assume you know it all. Or, perhaps you have been doing it for years and think there is no way you can be wrong. We have all been there. Follow these tips and you won’t have to learn the hard way like I did!
Do you have any other tips for handling criticism? Post them below, and any questions you might have. Thank you.