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Bouncing back from criticism

May 2, 2019

It takes broad shoulders not to be affected by criticism. It’s effectively being told that what you’re doing isn’t measuring up. When it’s concerning your business or a project close to your heart, it’s particularly hard to accept. But, while everyone strives to receive plaudits and recognition, constructive criticism is always more useful than praise. Feedback is a necessary tool for growth. Rather than shielding yourself from criticism, harness its power and use it as a learning mechanism.

Although you may not agree with the advice offered, criticism in any form is an opportunity to listen, diversify and generally improve. Here’s how you can learn from failure and bounce back from criticism.

Recognise failure doesn’t mean you’ve failed completely

Failure can feel like the end of the road but in reality, it is the beginning of another. While failure isn’t something to be conventionally celebrated, every failure should be welcomed as an opportunity to grow and improve. As renowned basketball player and coach John Wooden reminds us, “failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” It’s so important to be able to learn from a failure so you don’t repeat it.

Leave your bias behind

You may think you, your business or the product you’re selling is the best thing since sliced bread, but if it’s only you who holds that opinion, is it worth much? Responding to criticism necessitates an objective approach if you are to learn and grow.

Use criticism as an advisory mechanism

Despite McDonald’s proving highly popular since first opening in 1955, they aren’t insulated from the world of criticism. They’ve consistently come under fire for the lack of healthy options on their menus. Each time they respond emphatically with menu adaptations, giving customers the choice of any number of healthy alternatives from carrot sticks to grapes.

Take a step back

Criticism can arouse an immediate and uncontrollable emotional reaction. Try to curb that sinking sensation and anger building up inside of you. Sit on the criticism. Sleep on it even. Return to the criticism when it feels less raw. Once you’ve had time to mull it over and regain your composure, you may see the comments in an entirely new light.

Realise it’s not personal

It’s easy to take criticism personally. It can feel like an attack on you, your business or a project you’ve been working hard on. But it’s important to remember that it rarely is personal. It is part and parcel of work life and learning from criticism only makes your work better.

Own it

When Samsung were confronted with criticism about defects in their new phone, did they get defensive? Did they seek to invalidate complaints? No. They took charge of the narrative and held their hands up by publishing a double-page spread in a newspaper apologising to their customers. This demonstrated self-awareness and went some way to restoring consumer confidence.

Push yourself

If you aren’t failing at anything that’s a good thing, right? Not necessarily. If you aren’t failing, perhaps you’re guilty of coasting. Failure can signal a challenge. Yes, you may have failed but that can be rectified next time around with the lessons you’ve learnt. “You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore”, as Christopher Columbus famously proclaimed.

Criticism may be hard to accept but it doesn’t have to define you. With a change of perspective, sheer determination and a willingness to grow, criticism can be an invaluable learning tool and you too can bounce back.

What’s the worst criticism you’ve ever received and what did you do to bounce back? Tweet us at @otbtweeter with a tale of how you were able to learn from your failure.