How to Handle Criticism at Work

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Dear Soft Hearts,

Some people say they love getting critiqued because they can improve once they hear this feedback. I analyze and process where I could’ve made mistakes and try to do differently so I haven’t found critiques in the workplace very helpful. In my training I would have sometimes two superiors in the room critiquing while I worked, people would critique videos of my therapy after sessions, or they would critique sessions from behind a two-way mirror (with client’s consent of course). This is said to have made us stronger psychologists. I didn’t find it to be helpful. What I did learn though was how to take criticism better and better.

When you already give yourself a heavy dose of criticism it can be hard to take more from someone, especially a boss. Here are a few tips on how to take criticism in the workplace.

  1. Talk to yourself like you’d talk to a friend. Using some mindfulness self compassion (MSC) tools we’d have you talk to yourself as if you were talking to a friend. In Dr. Kristen Neff’s first MSC exercise, she explains how we can talk to ourselves like we’d talk to a friend. On your best, most compassionate day, how would you gently validate and console a friend? You might hear them out, letting them know their feelings/reactions are understandable.
  2. Tell a friend! Here’s where reaching out to someone who is kind will be helpful. Telling a friend what’s coming up for you will let you not sit alone with the pain/shame of being critiqued for a work thing. You don’t have to be alone with this pain. You can reach out to someone very understanding and tell them. You can even ask them to just listen if you don’t want their advice, but do want the space to be seen.
  3. Explore how you might do differently (if at all) once you’ve come to a place of inner calm or inner quiet. Sometimes the work critique may simply be a projection of the critic’s inner dialogue. If the person is highly perfectionistic or critical, please take it as a projection and not personally. However, you can look at this more closely if you do feel like some of the critique fits. If you feel like what they said may be true you can write out a bit of what you feel you could do differently next time once you’re at a place of inner calm. Why wait? We don’t want the inner critic running the show or driving the bus. The inner critic is welcome to remain a part of you, but we want these parts of you to feel calm and cared for before you take stock of what you could do differently next time. For example, if you don’t reply to your boss’ emails in a timely manner you might take some deep breaths, do some MSC, call a friend, and then write out what blocks you from replying in a timely manner and how you can improve on this moving forward.

Above all, try and be easy on yourself. If you kept reading this article my guess is that you’re not the type to take criticism like it’s nothing or that you don’t simply get up and brush yourself off as easily as some. If you’re a sensitive soul and take these critiques to heart a bit please do be easy on yourself. I get it, easier said than done, but a little gentleness here can go a long way.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

If you’d like a free 15 minute consultation with me please click here.

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