Questions For The Resilient – Can Criticism = Feedback?

Picture this: your boss has just informed you that he’d like to meet with you to speak about your latest project. As you walk through the door and seat yourself across the table from him, he wrings his hands and gives you that overtly enlarged, tight smile of his that means you’re in for a date with criticism. Oh yes. Then the feelings of defence and frustration start to boil over as he goes on about everything you missed, maintaining that shockingly well-designed smile whilst completely ignoring all the hard work and things you did do well on. The result? None of that criticism would ever be received.

I’ve just described a pretty common scenario in the business world. I, myself, have experienced criticism that I have not been able to receive because of how it was delivered. But here is the problem: there is no formula that will transform every person we meet with into beautifully orchestrated criticism models. No matter how hard we try, many people will continue to give criticism in a harsh, hard-to-receive way. What CAN we do, you ask? We certainly can transform the way we ourselves communicate criticism (which will be discussed next week, folks) and even as effectively, we can transform how we receive criticism regardless of the way in which it’s given to us. 

Firstly and most crucially, It’s important to shift our view from giving and receiving criticism, to giving and receiving feedback. This way it has the most positive intention at heart. Always, forever, regardless of the words used or its proclaimer, view criticism as feedback. Here are some reasons why this is so important:


6 considerations for criticism

“See yourself standing here in front of you, on a TV screen. Imagine your criticiser standing facing you. This is the you who is about to receive criticism and learn to respond to it in a completely new way.”

This is the introduction to a practical exercise developed by psychotherapist Steve Andreas, designed to assist one with finding a more positive way to receive criticism. The aim of this approach is to create a sense of disassociation for us from the situation at hand. This can be a really resourceful tool; it allows us to gain more perception on the situation at hand, get to the core intention of the feedback and respond in a way that is true to ourselves.

When receiving criticism, whether it be from your boss, your spouse, your child, parent, friend, or Bob from across the road who finds your choice of garden flowers distasteful, we can apply the following 6 considerations and ask ourselves: 

1. Does he/she intend to hurt me? 
2. What is the core meaning or message trying to be portrayed? 
3. Does this person know me and the situation well enough to give this feedback? 
4. Regardless of how valid the feedback is – what am I learning from this? 
5. If I am real with myself, do I perhaps need to hear this? 
6. Be honest: Is any of this feedback maybe true? 

There we go, if we can ask and answer these questions of ourselves honestly, we have a foolproof method to being able to receive criticism as feedback, and regardless of the outcome always learn something from it, too.

what if the feedback isn't valid?

Very often when we ask ourselves these questions, we do find a taint of truth in the feedback. There are usually some pointers we can take away and work with. But sometimes we receive feedback from somebody that we know, in the bottom of our heart, is not valid. Perhaps it is because they aren’t fully clued up on the situation, don’t know you well enough or the intention isn’t genuine. For whatever reason, when you find yourself in this space, it’s important to dismiss the statements and simply state, “Thank you for the feedback.” It’s easier said than done, of course. And in situations where that misconception may lead to further negative results you may also need to ask yourself, “what action can I take here to clear up this misconception and avoid a repeat in the future?”


And lastly, let us always remember to maintain the belief that there is no such thing as failure in this world. Failure is simply part of the process, included in life’s journey and bound to come about. If it is true that failure is found even on the path to success, then surely there is no failure – only feedback.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *