There are few things in life that are as valuable as criticism. It’s far more useful than any conference, workshop, or book – even more so than that expensive diploma hanging on your wall. Why? Good question.
Criticism is valuable because it’s REAL. It’s not theory, and it’s not hypothetical. It’s a real, tangible result. That means that what we can learn from it will actually be applicable to our life or business. However, if you want to get past the hurt and discomfort of criticism and take advantage of the lessons it provides, you need to make sure you posture yourself properly.
Here’s how you learn from criticism.
Validate before listening. Don’t give just anyone access to critique your ideas. You have to be careful who you listen to, and whose opinions carry weight in your life. If you take every word that comes your way to heart, you’ll be crushed. Ignore the criticism of lunatics, losers, and people you wouldn’t want to trade places with. Listen carefully to the criticism of those who are thoughtful, successful, and intentional. If you can learn to flip that switch, you’ll worry less and learn more.
Stop trying to defend yourself. Learning and progressing is not about being right all the time. So, if you feel the need to always defend yourself against criticism, stop it! Even when you have a good reason to, it’s rarely productive or helpful. To truly get something from criticism, you have to absorb it, internalize it, and then take action. And more often than not, that action should be self-improvement; not self-defense.
Read between the lines. Listen to what isn’t being said. It’s rare for someone to couple criticism with praise (or positive feedback). But, just because it isn’t vocalized doesn’t mean it’s not there. So, you can safely assume that things you don’t receive criticism about are done fairly well. (Well enough to not even be mentioned). The best way to learn from criticism is to use it as a tool to evaluate what you’re good at, and what you need to work on or pass on to someone else.
Ask for more. In the immortal words of Rocky Balboa, “Hit me HARDER!” When you’re truly ready to learn from criticism, you’ll be eager to ask for more. And the last thing that anyone expects when delivering criticism is for you to ask for more. So, do it often and always with the intent of improving and getting better. You can even change the conversation and ask what you did well. Most people are eager to give positive feedback to break the tension.
If you want to learn from something as ugly as criticism, then you need to set your mind right, and take it in stride. Prepare yourself for it and you’ll improve yourself from it.