When we think of conflict, unhealthy destructive debates come to our mind. That is because all we really hear on a daily basis are stories of aggressive conflict – from wars and street crimes to angry fights in the Parliament. Hence thinking about conflict at workplace doesn’t create a pretty picture: conversations of quarrels, voices raised and finger-pointing, awkward silences, hurt feelings and standoffs.
Unfortunately, these kinds of conflicts only create defensiveness and office politics and not great work.
While creativity might struggle to come out in a toxic atmosphere, it often grows by the tension created by differences of opinion. If your objective is to push creative boundaries, learn something new, broaden your perspective and challenge the status quo, then the right kind of conflict is absolutely necessary. For this, a need to take constructive criticism is needed in workplaces.
Following are a few tips to follow, for people that may find it hard to take criticism constructively.
Do not react right away
Take a pause before engaging yourself in the conversation after you have received criticism. One second may feel small, but it is ample time for your brain to process a more reasonable response. Give yourself that one second. And in that moment, you can bring to halt an upcoming dismissive facial expression or simply remind yourself to stay calm.
The Benefits of Feedback
Do not forget that constructive criticism mainly aims to help you improve your skills, work product, and relationships, and to direct you towards meeting the expectations that your manager and others have of you.
You should also try to curtail any reaction you’re having to the person who is delivering the feedback. It can be challenging to receive criticism from someone you do not see as an authority figure, for example a peer, but, remember: constructive feedback can even come from a flawed source.
Listen to Understand
When you are ready to engage in a productive dialogue as your composed, thoughtful self, when the other person shares their feedback with you, listen closely.
Allow the person to share their complete thoughts, without interrupting them. Once they are done, repeat back what they said. For example, “so you are saying that you need me to provide you with a sample for the report, is that right?”
Instead of analyzing or assessing the persons comment, try to understand what they want from you and what their perspective is. Recognize the fact that people could feel nervous giving their feedback to you, give them the benefit of doubt!
Give your Thanks
This can be difficult at times, but do try to tell the other person that you acknowledge their effort and what they may require of you. You do not always have to agree with them for this. By saying a simple, “Hey, I really appreciate you taking out the time to talk to me about this”, you can build a relationship with your colleague that could go a long way and grow more comfortable with time.
To process the feedback you might need more clarity. You can do this by asking questions. Do not ask questions to spark up another debate, rather, do it to get to the root of what the other person is trying to tell you.
For example, if your colleague tells you, you got a little heated during the meeting you could:
- Ask for examples to understand the issue better. You could do this by saying, “maybe I was a little frustrated, but can you share when you thought I got heated?”
- Acknowledge. “You’re right that I did cut him off while he was talking, and I later apologized for doing so.”
- Ask them if this is isolated issue (e.g., a mistake you only made once): “Have you noticed me getting acting like this in other situations?”
- Look for solutions to address their feedback: “I’d love to hear your ideas on how I could handle a similar situation in the future”
Request Time to Follow Up
At this point you will probably have understood the points being raised. Once you analyze your conversation and come to a conclusion as to how you need to address the situation in future you can thank the person again for their feedback, close the conversation and move on.
However, if the issue is larger, it is okay to take some time off to process it, talk to your boss to deconstruct what happened and how to handle situations in a better way. You can take your time to sit down with your boss and discuss with a few more questions to help you get a better understanding of things.