Strategies for Responding to Criticism

Image Credit: Håkon Sataøen
Image Credit: Håkon Sataøen

 By Rachel Owen, communications manager

It’s going to happen. There’s just no way of getting around it. No matter how skilled you are, or how careful you are, eventually someone will come to you with negative feedback. Although the conversation may be uncomfortable, with the right response you can emerge looking like a gem.

Strategies for responding to criticism

Be prepared with a response.

Create a “go-to” phrase to use. Having a response ready to go adds a layer of calm and reduces the chance of saying something you will regret. Here are just a couple of examples:

  • “Thank you very much for your feedback.”
  • “I appreciate you taking the time to share that with me, thank you.”
  • “Thanks for sharing that feedback with me. I’ll keep that in mind if this situation happens again.”
  • “I appreciate that insight into your perspective. That feedback is helpful, thank you.”

Ask for more information.

If you don’t understand the feedback, be sure to ask for clarification. If you believe the feedback to be based on incorrect information, be sure to ask for more information before you respond. Examples:

  • “That’s really interesting. I’d never thought of it that way. Can you tell me a little more about [topic]?”
  • “I want to make sure I have all the information when I bring this concern back to my team. Can you explain a little more about [topic]?”
  • “That [term/concept] isn’t familiar to me. Can you explain what that means so I can make sure I understand correctly?”

Ask for more time to respond.

Sometimes it’s best to let an issue cool off a little. This is especially the case if you will need to refute some of the criticism, such as if there’s a misunderstanding about a contract or service. A little bit of distance will help you stay calm and will help the critic know you carefully considered their issue rather than rejecting it out of hand.

  • “Thank you for letting us know about the issue. We are sorry about the frustration. I’m going to check with my team to see if they have any insight into what happened. I will be in touch soon.”
  • “I would like to talk about this more but I need a little bit of time to process this information. Can we schedule a time to discuss this on Thursday?”
  • “This feedback is very important to me and you’ve given me a lot to think about. Can we set an appointment to discuss this again in a couple days?”

It’s okay to be wrong.

We all make mistakes. What you do in response to the mistake will set you apart from the others. If you made a mistake, simply apologize and offer solutions. Refusing to admit you made a mistake will only dig the hole deeper. A little bit of humility will go a long way.

Be humble.

No matter how high you climb, there is always room for improvement. Everyone can benefit from feedback. Stay humble and issue a simple, sincere “thank you” to show the best version of you.

Don’t argue.

It’s okay to clear up misinformation by sharing about the experience from your perspective, but don’t be confrontational. Don’t spend a lot of time picking apart the misunderstanding. When the situation dissolves into arguing, no one wins. The end goal of the discussion always should be resolving the conflict, not blame casting. Briefly share your perspective and then move on to solutions.

Say thanks.

My rule of thumb is always say thanks. Not sure what to say? Say thanks. You disagree with the feedback? Say thanks. The critic is being a jerk? Say thanks. The feedback really helped? Say thanks. “Thanks” is the best way to help the critic walk away feeling like you handle feedback well.

Do you have other strategies for responding well to criticism? Let us know in the comments!

Related posts:

The Other First Impression

The Gift You’re Probably Rejecting

How to Say No

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