Embrace Criticism

How do you respond when someone criticizes your work?

Do you get angry and upset? Or do you lean in and use their criticism to improve your work?

It is rare to get honest criticism from someone who actually knows what they’re talking about. Most people you work with are probably nervous about giving you honest feedback — so they hide their criticism in polite words and half truths.

What a waste of time.

Real feedback is a gift. It should be embraced. But receiving real feedback requires that you check your ego and listen. The best people I’ve ever worked with crave honest feedback, and they’re OK if it stings. They use the honest truth to improve their work.

We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve. —Bill Gates

Most people don’t know how to give meaningful feedback. Giving real feedback requires honesty. Empty criticism and groundless opinions does no one any good. But insightful feedback is a priceless gift. Analysis, grounded in facts, is useful because faulty analysis is easy to disprove, whereas insightful analysis can reveal holes in the best plans.

If someone opens up to you and asks for feedback on a rough draft don’t spend time pointing out typos (copyediting is best done once — at the end). It might feel like you’re providing insightful comments — but you’re not. Instead figure out what feedback will have the biggest impact on the final draft and provide that. Make sure the comments your provide are relevant and timely (i.e. don’t tell me that I should have bought a black car the month after I’ve purchased a silver one).

Finally, say something nice. Preface your honesty with a comment like “this is a terrific draft.” Praising the portion of the work you like best isn’t just stroking someone’s ego. It aligns you with the creator of the work, softens the criticism, and increases the likelihood that they will come to you again for feedback in the future.

Thoughtful feedback is a rare gift. Embrace it. Create a culture in your organization that encourages (or even expects) it.


My challenge to you this week is to actively seek feedback. Share this article with a coworker and then ask them to for honest, constructive feedback. Tell them its ok to be critical, that you are open to real criticism to help you improve.


Stoic Sundays is a series published by PocketStoic.com. Download our free e-book (The Art of Stoic Perception: 24 Ancient Techniques for Creating an Invincible Mind) → PocketStoic.com/book