My wife is an avid Strictly fan. Consequently, the background sound to my autumnal Saturday night is the judge’s feedback to celebrity dancers. Although I don’t give the show my full attention, something Len Goodman once said has remained with me. To summarise his comment to an ex-rugby player: it amazes me how well sports people come back after a bad week, they really learn from criticism
Criticism, a Driving Force
Professional sports people know all about the tiny margins between success and failure. As such they’re always asking questions. Is there something I should do differently? How can I do it better? What did I get wrong? Often they don’t have these answers themselves. As a result, they rely on others for insights: coaches, team-mates. They invite criticism. More than that, they relish criticism. It’s how they grow
Why Criticism is Hard to Take
We all need to feel good about ourselves. It’s important for our well-being. But often, we rely on others to validate our value, our self-worth. So when others question us, we doubt ourselves. Likewise, when others highlight our weaknesses we beat ourselves up. In short, we feel vulnerable when criticised. We don’t want to feel vulnerable. As a result, we react defensively when criticised; get angry, deny what we hear
Turning Criticism Into Personal Growth
Psychologists encourage us to be more self-validating. And rightly so. However, I’m a coach, not a counsellor. Therefore, in this post we focus on the practicalities of turning criticism into personal growth:
- Consider criticism to be free advice. As a result, you’ll be able to see what’s happening as a positive
- Understand it from the critic’s perspective. Engage them with questions, especially if the critic’s a client. It’s a great way to manage difficult clients
- As with any feedback, criticism needs to be gratefully received. This will encourage your critic to be open with you again in the future
- Finally, go away and reflect on what’s been said. If it’s a rant from a critical person, dismiss it. Otherwise, turn into action. And grow
Use Criticism to our Advantage
If we want to grow, learn from criticism. If we can suppress our natural tendency to react defensively to criticism, our biggest critic might just become our greatest ally
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