Criticism as praise

My old boss, SECDEF Rumsfeld was fond of saying, “If you’re not being criticized, you may not be doing much.” If you are a man of action (MOA), you are bound to upset some folks. Providing constructive criticism is an art form in and of itself. How do you practice the art?

Taking criticism like a Naval officer

Accepting criticism is a skill every well-adjusted Sailor must possess. We give and take criticism among our co-workers, our friends, and our family. Criticism is an important part of our personal self improvement, for it is other people who can point out mistakes and shortcomings that we can’t see because we lack objectivity. Unfortunately, Sailors today (me included) don’t know how to offer and accept criticism like a man. Instead we handle criticism like little boys. When giving criticism, we opt only to give snide, cutting jabs that do nothing to improve the situation. When receiving criticism, we sulk, make excuses, and argue with the person criticizing them. Ask any leader who has the nerve of giving a subordinate a poor Fitness Report. Today’s subordinates will cry and whine their way to a better one. Or worst of all, have a senior intervene. We simply don’t know how to respectfully accept criticism.

Because we all face situations every day that require us to give or take criticism, we provide the following guidelines on how to make the process more constructive.

How to Give Effective Criticism

  • Go in cool, calm, and collected.
  • Be specific.
  • Criticize the action, not the person.
  • Be a diplomat.
  • Make specific suggestions for improvement.
  • Personalize your approach.
  • Point out positives.
  • Follow up.

How to Take Criticism

  • Consider the source.
  • Shut your trap and listen.
  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Stay calm
  • Ask clarifying questions.
  • Take ownership of your mistake.
  • Change your perspective on criticism.
  • Thank your critic (even when they handed your butt to you).
  • Take action and follow up. Get better. Improve. That’s what it’s all about.

Stolen from: How to take criticism like a man