I’m excited to share that my friend Mollie West Duffy, an organizational design expert at IDEO, and I just finished co-authoring No Hard Feelings, an illustrated business book about the secret power of embracing emotion at work. The book, which will be published by Penguin in January, provides a well-researched but affectionate guide to navigating the most emotionally charged workplace situations.
One of those being: receiving critical feedback. Even if we know a suggestion about how we can improve is useful (or even if we really like the person giving us the feedback) negative feedback hurts! Especially if you’re already having a bad day, it’s easy to hear “You tend to rush through details” and immediately start questioning your entire self-worth.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few tips on how to handle criticism without falling into a self-loathing spiral:
- Remind yourself that you need critical feedback to improve. The instant gratification of praise feels so good that we often willingly trade learning opportunities for easy successes that reinforce our positive self-image. But adopting a growth mindset allows you to view criticism as a chance to get better — and make it more likely you get promoted.
- Ask someone who knows what they’re talking about. When we need help, we tend to prioritize trustworthiness and accessibility over expertise. But studies show feedback only helps us improve when it comes from an expert.
- Use the word “what” instead of “any.” If you ask “Do you have any feedback on how my presentation went?” the person can easily default to saying no. If you instead ask, “What could I improve about my presentation?” you invite specific feedback.
- Remind yourself the person is giving you advice to help you. “A friend tells you that you have food on your face,” says Genius CEO Tom Lehman. “A non-friend doesn’t give you the bad news because they don’t want to feel uncomfortable!”
- Keep a smile file (or folder). Write down nice comments you receive. Save emails from colleagues thanking you for your hard work. Criticism will linger longer than praise, so being able to quickly remind yourself of what you do well will help you weather your inevitable gloomy moments.