Dealing with Criticism and Negative Feedback – Responding to Criticism
Receiving criticism can be hard enough, but figuring out the best way to respond is no easy task.
Listen, Listen, Listen
Most people think that they are good at listening. But as we all know, there is a world of difference between hearing something and actually listening to it. The former involves simply allowing sounds to enter your ears and be recognised by your brain, whereas the latter more of a decision that is made: a decision to pay attention to what is being said rather than spending the time thinking of what you’re going to say in response.
Because isn’t that what we all do a lot of the time? Most people don’t realise it, but we have a tendency to simply wait for a person to stop speaking so that we can chime in with what we want to say. The next time you’re speaking with someone, notice the temptation to do this and instead, focus on really listening to what the person is saying and understanding how they’re feeling and why they are saying what they are.
In the context of dealing with criticism and negative feedback, try not to spend your time finding holes in the person’s arguments or coming up with defensive statements to make in reply. Instead, focus on listening to what the person is saying, and nothing more. If the criticism has come via email, particularly common for those of us who work in translation services and other freelance work, this will be a lot easier for you to master as you will be able to read the email several times over to make sure that you understand the message that is being conveyed.
Buy Some Time
Give yourself as much time as you can before you need to respond. If the criticism or negative feedback has come via email, you can safely wait until the next day before you need to reply. The situation is more difficult when the negative feedback or criticism is given in person. It is perfectly reasonable to you to request some time to think before you need to reply. Try saying something along the lines of ‘I understand what you mean. Please let me have another look at the translation. Can we make a time to talk about this tomorrow?’, which reassures the person that you are taking their comments seriously and that you will look into their criticism before responding properly.
In Certain Situations, Apologise Immediately
It’s important to remember that apologising for a situation does not necessarily mean that you are admitting that you have done something wrong. Think about a doctor apologising to a distraught family after their loved one has died, by saying something like ‘I’m terribly sorry for your loss’. An apology like this certainly does not mean that the doctor has done anything wrong, simply that they is empathising with the family’s situation.
If the criticism has come about because something has gone wrong – for example, a mistake in a translation has led to incorrect marketing materials being printed – you can safely say that you are sorry the situation has occurred, without admitting that you have done anything wrong. It is reasonable to request time to investigate the matter fully for making personal admissions of liability.
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.