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Hey, Colleague: How do I avoid being triggered when receiving feedback from my boss?

Tips on how to take constructive criticism with class.
How to give and receive constructive criticism.

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Hey, Colleague:

I just started a new job. My role entails regular reviews from my peers but I sometimes find myself getting triggered or upset when someone has something bad to say about my work. I know it’s the nature of the work and we need to collaborate to achieve good results. How do I make the review process easier for myself?

— Brianna T.

Can you take constructive criticism?

The most valuable skill I learned in my first career was to learn how to take constructive criticism. It also taught me how to not take anything personally — in both business and life.

In a past life, I was a designer specializing in user experiences and interfaces. Imagine working for weeks on a design only to have it shot down by executives who have a billion things on their minds including the company stock value.

But guess what? That’s life and that’s business. I knew the name of the game and used the opportunity to toughen up my young, insecure 20-year-old mind. Instead of getting hung up on the meticulously chosen shade of blue the button no one cared about, I chose to look at the bigger picture.

Benefits of constructive criticism

  • Personal growth. It forces you out of your comfort zone to do better and be better at whatever skill you are working on.
  • Resilience. The more punches you receive, the more resilient you’ll become. The more effortless your life will get.
  • Trust. When you allow constructive criticism into your professional and personal lives, you’re creating a collaborative environment where you have a sense of trust and openness with your colleagues, partner, friends, and family.

How to take constructive criticism with class

  • First, understand that constructive criticism isn’t negative criticism. It may not always be what you want to hear but it helps you improve. Having a growth mindset means you are able to reframe it and use it as a lesson to improve that area of your life instead of playing victim and feeling attacked which is the anthesis of a growth mindset: a fixed mindset.
  • Stop taking everything personally. An uncomfortable truth is that people take things personally because they are conditioned to think the world revolves around them. That’s OK! We all started from somewhere. The aim is to listen to respond, not to understand which will prevent you from reacting immediately.
  • Get your paradigm shattered. In order to stop taking things personally, we need to get out of our bubbles and expand our minds with new experiences, and people with different perspectives, hobbies, and interests. Try to do something different every day no matter how big or small such as reading an article about something you know nothing about. This will make you realize that the world is a humongous place with many different opinions and not as black and white as you think.
  • Understand your brain. Your brain is wired to protect you from external and internal danger, including the danger of knowing the sides of yourself that you don’t want to see. That’s why we have blind spots and why we project ourselves onto others by getting angry, annoyed, jealous, or holding grudges. Instead of recognizing it in ourselves, it’s amplified in other people. Knowing this will prevent you from feeling attacked when giving constructive criticism because you remind yourself this information is given to help you recognize your blind spots.
  • Ask questions. Be curious so you can work together to brainstorm actionable next steps. Constructive criticism is meant to help you grow so make the most out of it. One of my favourite quotes is: “The quality of your life the based on the quality of the questions you ask.”
  • Make sure it’s coming from the right source. The secret is not caring with everybody thinks but just caring about what the right people think.

How to give constructive criticism like a pro

  • Provide actionable feedback. Giving criticism without saying a “why” or “how” is destructive criticism also known as being nit-picky, hypercritical, wasting time, or not knowing what you are talking about, and speaking purely from your ego. If you are going to criticize, make sure to let the receiver know why and how they can fix it, or how you can help them. You are the expert so be one.

”Don’t point out problems unless you are going to offer solutions on how to fix them.”

  • Use first person. When you say “I” instead of “you,” it makes it feel less like an attack. When you say, “I think” or “I feel,” you are centring the experience around yourself, making a supposedly objective experience subjective. Instead, turn the direction on the receiver of the feedback.
  • Make it a productive conversation. Make sure to let the receiver respond with his point of view. Ask them questions so they are involved in this conversation aimed to help them improve. Try to maintain a friendly tone so you can both come out of this conversation in a positive light.
  • Include positive comments. Give constructive feedback directly but point out their strengths for encouragement. Be careful not to sugarcoat or force positivity because meaningless compliments won’t help anyone improve, and may just boost their ego, resulting in them not taking any action.
  • Give it a few days. Don’t give constructive feedback right away Give a day or two so you can process it and make sure you’re able to have a productive conversation. Think about:
    • Is this feedback necessary?
    • Will it facilitate growth?
    • What are the next steps this person can take?
  • Give constructive criticism in a timely manner. Don’t set up a meeting to discuss something that happened three months ago.
  • Take it private. It’s natural for people to feel attacked when you shatter their paradigm resulting in anger, shame, or a defensive barrage of profanities. It’s how our brains are wired and unfortunately, not everyone is aware of this. Take your time to sit and chat with the person privately for a productive conversation so you don’t waste your time and their time.

Bonus: Using constructive criticism to your advantage

In the competitive world of sales, people are obsessed with pursuing new customers with flashy billboards that cast an eyesore on our landscapes, thousands of dollars funnelled into digital ads, and relentless cold calling.

When in fact, 20% of your customers who are your most loyal fans generate 50% of your sales. So who should you be nurturing? What should your priorities be?

Turn customers into loyal fans.

A lesson: no one ever died of a bad review

Later in life when I was running my own agency and building multiple e-commerce businesses, I learned that bad reviews were the best thing that can happen to you. Especially when it was a public review. It was your chance to spin it around, fix it, and turn that unhappy customer into a loyal fan.

We all know to take negative reviews online with a grain of salt because only unhappy people, driven by the negative emotion of not having their needs met, will take their time leaving you a bad review. The majority of customers are happy with your product and service go on with their lives because their needs were met.

We can also use the analogy of trolls on the internet or the media — negativity is always amplified because they are the loudest in the space. Most people are actually out living — in real life. But if your world is on your couch with endless scrolling, then you would think the world is just full of angry and bad people who have nothing better to do than focus on the negatives.

There is a lot of bad going on in the world but if you go out and experience life, you will learn that more good exists.

So don’t let “negative” or news feedback deter you.

How you can turn around unhappy customers

If you run an online business, always reply to negative public reviews.

Respond publicly and respond kindly with your perspective (without shaming the customer) or ask the customer to email you so you can handle it directly. If it goes well, ask them kindly to update their review. Most of the time, they will consider that you fixed the situation quickly. By replying the public reviews, it shows potential customers that you are on top of it!

Human beings are inherently good-hearted and emotional beings. We all know people deserve second chances. Most people understand running a business is hard and that human beings are prone to mistakes. It depends on how you handle those mistakes.

Speaking about emotional beings…

Let’s say you run a brick-and-mortar business. My friend, whose been running restaurants for years, have accumulated loyal customers for over a decade who will follow her anywhere. She knows their names, their drinks, and what they like. She takes care of them. People like being taken care of and treated like they are special.

So treat all your customers like a VIP.

When you give a customer personalized attention in order to go above and beyond to solve their problem, most of the time they will feel grateful and want to continue to support your business.

The Law of Reciprocity

The Law of Reciprocity states that when people receive something, they feel compelled to return the favor in kind. We are all driven by this subconscious need to repay a debt because like I said, we are all wired to be good human beings.

Let’s say you give the unhappy customer an exchange, and a further discount or freebie — you’ve created a bond, an underlying trust because you didn’t expect anything in return.

This is the magic brand loyalty and word-of-mouth referrals are built from. Nurture long-term relationships with your customers and everyone is winning because you are providing them with products or services they need and they are supporting your business.

The takeaway

  • Constructive criticism is good feedback designed to help you grow.
  • Learning how to receive constructive criticism will
  • Only give constructive criticism when you intend to them why you’re giving it, and provide a “how” — actionable next steps.
  • No one ever died of a bad review.
  • Turn unhappy customers into happy customers by giving them individualized attention and treating them like VIPS. Use this strategy for friends, colleagues, or anyone in your life.
  • Use the Law of Reciprocity.