Learning to Listen and Love Criticism

Recently I started to think way more about the nature of work as well as the future of work. In my attempt to better understand professional life, I stumbled across Adam Grant’s podcast with TED — WorkLife.

Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist. He studies how people work and how to make their professional lives enjoyable. In his podcast, he talks with successful professionals about their work experience and shares insights on how others can improve their work life. To get the most out of this podcast, I started writing down key takeaways and decided put them in the form of an article which will later remind me of key takeaways and, hopefully, will help others discover new ideas. Here is a summary of the first episode “How to love criticism”.

Personal motivation for this episode

I’ve always craved for feedback as it’s my primary source of insights for growth. It takes time to learn how to properly receive feedback and, more importantly, make good use of it. At this point, I want to learn how to offer useful feedback myself to people I work with. Learning how to receive and give feedback is a skill I’m yet to master and this episode was exactly about this.

Key takeaways

We can’t improve without criticism. Criticism is a constructive feedback which helps us grow. Yet, in most cases people don’t know how to give or receive it properly — that’s why we often hate it. We’re so immersed in working routine that it’s often impossible for us to objectively evaluate our performance. That’s why we need feedback from our co-workers.

It helps to have a “challenge network” — a group of people we trust to help us grow professionally. For it to work, we need:

  1. Be open for feedback others have to share (most likely harsh one);
  2. Be aware of our shortcomings and understand our strengths;

The culture of radical candor (sweet spot between managers who are obnoxiously aggressive on the one side and ruinously empathetic on the other) is based on two ideas:

  1. Caring about people personally;
  2. Challenging them to grow professionally. Professional growth should be separated from personal emotions;

Feedback sandwich technique doesn’t work because:

  1. People tend to miss the praise in the middle and only hear the criticism at the beginning and the end;
  2. When starting with praise, people become suspicious and wait for harsh criticism;

A better alternative to feedback sandwich is to share your intention for feedback at the beginning and then provide all of the harsh feedback right away. If feedback receiver is on the same page with feedback giver, they understand that feedback is there to help them grow and learn.

Further learning:


Thank you for reading till the end. You can always reach out to me directly through LinkedIn, Facebook or email and share your thoughts.