Golden rules for responding to criticism

Welcome to another entry in our coaching skills for managers series, this time we’ve decided to address a skill that many find difficult – responding to criticism!

We all have our “Comfort Zones”, and getting feedback which does not line up with our perception of “who we are” or “what we did” can often cause us to feel under pressure or threat.

Golden rules for responding to criticism

Golden rules for responding to criticism

The secret to overcoming these natural responses is to first seek to understand rather than be understood. Basically, this means that before responding to criticism, seek clarification about what the other person has said and where they are “coming from”.

Statements such as:

“What I hear you saying is … is that right?”

“What that means to me is … is that correct?”

“What I think you are saying is … is that right?”

Apply your newly developed active listening skills to seek to understand why they believe what they do or feel the way they do.

When out of our comfort zone, it often feels as if we are under threat and have to justify our actions. Taken to extremes, these can be some of our responses:

  • Deny
  • Justify or Rationalise
  • Lay Blame
  • Withdraw from Reality

Each of these responses can initially assist us to keep from feeling threatened. Yet taken to excess, they only get in the way of developing trusting relationships, a willingness to learn and grow, and feelings of personal dignity and self-esteem.

“Remember, outstanding communicators are response …able”

Use your new skills to question the other person, to clarify what they mean, believe or feel.   Encourage them to be specific with you, ask for specific examples. Question deeper (probe) to find out how much of a concern particular issues are, and, what this means to them.

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