Dealing with criticism is an unfortunate but essential part of life, especially when you work as a translator.
We all know the saying ‘nobody is perfect’, yet somehow most of us tend to be surprised when someone tells us that we have done something wrong. It is only by making mistakes and figuring out where you went wrong that will be able to learn from your mistakes and improve for the future.
Dealing with criticism and learning to live with negative feedback is therefore an essential part of life, and in particular an essential part of your career. After all, you wouldn’t want to remain at the same level of competence throughout your career, would you? You would probably agree that you are much more proficient at your job now than you were when you started, and one of the main reasons that you have been able to improve over the years is because you identified things that you were doing wrong and worked to improve them. Criticism and negative feedback from someone else is simply that person drawing your attention to something that you may not have been aware of.
Keep Calm and Take Some Time
No matter how much we understand that criticism and negative feedback is a necessary part of life, somehow it still stings when it is first delivered. Whether you’re being criticised for a less than perfect translation or you’re getting negative feedback from your employer or a co-worker, sometimes you will need to fight your initial reactions. We can safely say that if you yell or start an argument while you are receiving criticism, things are only going to get worse. The best thing you can do in that situation is to keep calm. If you can, avoid saying anything at all, so that you won’t say something that you may regret later. It sounds like such a cliché, but if you can bring your attention to your breath, you’ll have a much greater chance of being able to stay calm in the face of criticism.
If possible, give yourself some time to deal with your feelings before you have to do respond. If you work in freelance translation, you’ll probably have a safe 24 hours before you need to reply to that harsh email. If you work in an office situation and a more immediate reply is expected, at least give yourself a five-minute bathroom break or a 15 minute coffee break so that you can gather your thoughts.
If you have given yourself time to think about the criticism before you have to respond, you will have a chance to look at what is being said in a logical way. Most criticisms and negative feedback are not intended to be personal, and the situation will be a lot easier to deal with when you can realise that criticism is not an attack on your character or a comment on you as a person, but simply a comment on a particular piece of work that you have done.
Oftentimes, criticism stings because it attacks the part of us that longs to be perfect. Accept that perfectionism doesn’t exist, and is usually just an excuse to procrastinate or to avoid working towards goals. Adopt the attitude that ‘near enough is good enough’ and concentrate on doing your best, rather than striving to be perfect. After all, nothing is ever really perfect, is it?
This article is part of our Dealing with Criticism and Negative Feedback article series. Read the other articles in this series for a full plan on how to deal with the inevitable criticism and negative feedback that comes with any job, no matter your profession.