• Priya Venkatesan

How to process criticism well?



Scenario 1

You are making that critical presentation/demo. You feel elated that you have made a great idea/product.

You feel like Steve Jobs presenting his iPhone.

All is well till you get a question from the audience on a risk you have overlooked.

It's more than a question to you.

It comes like missile and you don't know what hit you. It feels like someone just stabbed you.


Scenario 2:

Your 360 assessment results are out and you are fuming looking at how your boss and peers have rated you.

Your face is red with anger as the report shows a huge difference between who you thought you are and who are you for others. Your team also looks like a traitor. There is a meeting next week with your boss on what you wish to work on. You are not able to let go of the emotions of shock and denial.


Criticism or feedback can be very hard to receive sometimes.

It works against something fundamental - our sense of Identity.

We like to hold on to it for dear life.

Protecting our identity and belief system can sometimes lead to rigidity and mis-judgment of reality.


How can we process and handle criticism well?

My inspiration is from our beloved 11th President of India, Dr Abdul Kalam on how his leader and he handled criticism.


  1. Acknowledge the messenger - Don't shoot them:

It's very easy to transfer the blame on the messenger - on all people who gave you feedback. You can start attributing negative traits on them - they are jealous, they are insecure, they are risk-averse, they don't like challenges etc.


Bottomline:- they communicated to you what you could not see/fathom. You don't have to accept all of what they said. However you owe them a thoughtful consideration because they show you your blindspots.



Leaders beware: Your well wishers are not those who agree to everything you say. Real well wishers are people, who say what you need to hear, even though they know it may hurt you. They say this because they care enough and are invested in your success.



2. Reflect:

People can give you varied types of feedback. It's your job to pay attention to the ones that make sense and are constructive. This requires reflection and an ability to look at things in new light.



When a mirror shows a spot in your face, you don't fix the mirror. You decide whether you need to fix yourself or let it be.


3. Act


The positive intention behind feedback used in the right way is to make you resourceful & successful. Pick items in your feedback list that you feel can cause the maximum impact if you change. Start taking small actions everyday towards them.



Words may inspire but only action creates change. ~ Simon Sinek


4. Show up & not ghost


Due to our emotional wounds we stop engaging people who criticise us. We ghost them and not discuss anything meaningful. It will work wonders for the relationship, if we manage to show up and share that their feedback was valuable and we have chosen to implement a few things and not do certain things. That will encourage people to share bad news from the roots - a valuable input for every leader.





How do you handle criticism?


#executivecoaching #leadershipcoaching #criticism




PS: Adam Grant has great ideas on the subject and you can find it here


7 views

Recent Posts

See All