How do I handle criticism (created 2010-05-21).

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Someone asked how I handle criticism. To be honest, I don't get criticized all that much. Possibly it is that I do very little that deserves criticism, and possibly, people are intimidated by the area I work in (unjustifiably intimidated, by the way, but many people are just plain scared of numbers). It is also important to note that most people don't like to share negative opinions directly. They certainly will tell others, of course, if something is wrong, but it takes some boldness and some bravery to confront a person directly.

When I receive a critical comment, I do try to thank the person for sharing their opinions, as I do want to encourage more of this. But, unless the comment requires an immediate action on my part, I put the comments aside for a day or a week. The passage of time helps me to avoid becoming too defensive. After some time has elapsed, I can better digest the comments and see if they provide me with an opportunity to improve. It helps to remember the Covey principle "Seek first to understand..." Put yourself in that person's shoes and imagine what they are experiencing.

I also try to encourage feedback during a consulting session by asking questions like "Does this make sense?" At the end of a consulting session, I try to make sure that they understand what they are supposed to do after leaving my office. I also provide some guidance about when they should contact me next. It's good for the client to struggle a bit. They will be better able to defend any choices they make in their research if they do as much as they can on their own. But I don't want them to torture themselves, either. If they start to feel totally lost or if they have no clue what to do next, then is a good time to call me and talk some more.