In praise of people who don’t run to cry in the bathroom when they receive constructive criticism.

Check out the response I got to some quite harsh (but fair) feedback to a client yesterday.

She had asked my thoughts on some promotional material she had prepared for a new product. Frankly, it left a lot to be desired.

(And just to be clear, I really like my client, and I like that she pays me faster than any other client I have. I want to keep her as a client).

I responded with eight carefully phrased bullet points outlining what I didn’t think was up to scratch and suggestions on how to make improvements. After all, she’s paying me for my knowledge and years of experience, not to boost her ego by saying that everything she does is wonderful.

I didn’t know how well it would go down, because I was essentially saying that what she had done was sub-standard.

And, as you can see, she wrote back that the feedback was very helpful, and she thanked me for it!

It was so refreshing to get that email back last night.

When I was a manager of a team, I learned I had to be careful about giving constructive criticism because people can take it so personally. I’ve always had the philosophy that what’s important is the work and making it the best it can be, and that robust and honest feedback should mean a better result in the end. And I am by no means exempt from that. I’m okay with you tearing my work apart if it’s legit and leads to a better result. It might unsettle me if it transpires that I’ve really not done as well as I thought I had, but I’ll get over it.

It’s hard not to feel like an ogre when you give honest feedback, designed to ensure the best possible outcome for all of us, and the recipient runs to the bathroom and comes out red around the eyes and with a support crew by their side.

If you’re someone like my client who shrugs off criticism, good for you. Keep it up.

And if you’re someone who takes criticism to heart, then please, please, please can I give you a virtual hug (I’m not an ogre, after all), tell you that you’re most likely doing a really good job and that really, it’s nothing personal. Promise.

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