In life, we all hear criticism. True criticism, or “constructive” criticism, is meant to open doors and enable us to improve ourselves.

Constructive criticism is never given with malicious intent.

I learned about “constructive” criticism a long time ago. With a degree in Journalism & Mass Communications, I couldn’t make it out of college without knowing the art of constructive criticism. I spent the majority of my time in classes that were project-based, where you presented your work to fellow students.

You were open to comments, both compliments and criticism, from classmates and teachers, in an open forum, day after day, week after week. I quickly learned that if you were open to suggestions, it allowed you to learn, grow and become a better creative individual.

This style of learning is perfect preparation for real life in a business environment. In the fields of marketing, advertising & design, the first thing one must keep in mind, and ask yourself, from the beginning to the end of any project is “What will attract your audience?”. What defines success is not what you like, but what will gain the attention of your target. Feedback, including “constructive” criticism, is a way to understand how you can reach your audience. It is essential.

Norman Vincent Peale once said, “The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”

I still have to admit, and I am sure that I am not alone when I say this, no matter how you look at it and how silver the lining appears, accepting criticism can be tough! Here are a few steps to get you through being on the receiving end of the unavoidable:

Take a Moment and Take it Easy. When you first realize that you are about to be given criticism, put your shield or your boxing gloves down. Take a breath. When you haven’t heard what the person is going to say, you can’t really know if someone is being “constructive” or malicious. And, it could be something that is more helpful than you think.

Listen. Let the person who is giving criticism complete what they are saying. Do not cut them off. Interrupting is a sign of disrespect and demonstrates that you are not listening to what they have to say. Stopping someone from talking will lead to aggravation on both sides. Also, you won’t be able to fully understand what someone is telling you if you do not hear everything.

Clarify. Don’t be intimidated by criticism. If you don’t agree or don’t understand, ask questions. Get the complete picture. Keep in mind that you are not looking for an argument, just a full explanation. Once you have processed what the person has said, ask questions looking for specifics. Also, if the person did not offer a suggestion or solution, ask for one.

Show Appreciation. Yes, that is correct, show appreciation. You don’t have to agree with the criticism, but let the person know that you value being given their opinion. When someone takes the time to notice something and tells you right away, be sure to say “thank you.” Be grateful because it means that person is paying attention.

Accept It For What It Is. When you receive criticism, don’t blow it out of proportion and don’t let it get you down. If it is mean or malicious, brush it off and don’t worry. In those cases, it is about the person giving the criticism and not about you.

Remember that true “constructive” criticism is an avenue of improvement. Once you bring down your defenses, use it to your advantage.

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