Written by Rachel C. Schultz
Criticism: the word guaranteed to make your stomach lurch.
As public relations professionals, we are often exposed to criticism. Whether in the form of an email, word of mouth conversation, friendly advice, or performance reviews, it constantly surrounds us. Criticism and the fear that comes with it has the potential to damage our self-esteem, crumble our confidence, and force us to face judgment. Can you blame mankind for avoiding criticism?
Research has shown that it takes our brain experiencing five or more positive events to make up for the psychological effect of just a single negative event. I reminisce on the earlier days of my collegiate athletic career and how difficult it was compared to high school. I was blessed with one of the best track and field coaches in the conference, but each practice required every ounce of mental toughness out of me. I vividly remember what made coach the best. It wasn’t his workouts. It wasn’t his expertise. It was his criticism. After every single hammer throw, the coach would have anywhere from two to five pieces of feedback to offer.
It took me well over a year to adjust to this type of critiquing. Any athlete can agree with this statement: the more pieces of advice a coach gives you after one throw, the harder your head spins trying to fix all of it for the next. I thank collegiate athletics for providing me with a different level of mental toughness which grew into a sincere appreciation for criticism.
It should be noted that no amount of professors, coaches, or employers will ever make it easier to accept criticism. Sure, some people say it is nicer than others but it is something that must be acknowledged and accepted within. All of us have our flaws. Some of us run from it more than others. Some of us hide it and pretend it’s not there. There comes a point in life where you have to look criticism in the face and say, “I’m listening.” This time frame is different for everyone, mine just happened during my athletic career. Once you take feedback into consideration, apply it to your work (in my case, athletics), you begin to see a significant increase in your performance and mental strength.
I believe there are three key behaviors that make it easier for me to accept and understand criticism in personal and professional settings. I hope they can help you, too.
Yes, it is really that simple. When being critiqued, it is so easy to blur out what someone has to say or share. Throughout my 22 years on Earth, I have yet to meet someone who likes to be told all the things they could be doing better. It is NORMAL to not want to hear but what isn’t NORMAL is not taking the chance to listen. Norman Vincent Peale, American author, once said “the trouble with most of us is that we’d rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” The longer you take to absorb feedback, good or bad, the longer your personal or professional growth may take.
Own Up to Mistakes/Flaws
As young professionals or even students, we are accountable for our actions at all times. If you make a mistake, own up to it and try to fix it as soon as possible. It is so easy to place the blame on a colleague but how is that helping you in the long run? The action of being evaluated has nothing to do with someone’s approval of you but rather the potential someone sees in you. Seek improvement, not approval.
Alter Your Mindset
Have you ever noticed that when you’re driving, your car follows where your eyes lead? Your car goes where your eyes go. This is very similar to your mindset when being criticized. Your mindset has the potential to absorb negativity rather than focusing on the end goal, don’t let it. Stay focused on the conclusion, not the criticism.
In conclusion, how we choose to accept criticism can make or break our own opportunity to grow. As public relations professionals, we are often exposed to criticism. We must listen. We must recognize areas of improvement. We must adjust our mindset.
Criticism: the word guaranteed to make you grow