Learn to give and take constructive criticism

Lisa Goudy
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To my beloved sister who has interest in some areas of psychology, I wish you a beautiful birthday today.

Recently I came across a website called PsychTests.com.

The website offers a variety of psychological tests, including personality, IQ and career tests. I’ve never been into doing those types of things, but nonetheless I was intrigued when I hear about their study comparing employees on their ability to handle constructive criticism. The results are quite interesting and I think there are suggestions included we can take to heart in our every day lives.

PsychTests.com is based in Montreal and for the study they surveyed 3,664 participants. It’s not a huge sample size considering the Canadian population, but the results are most interesting anyway.

The survey indicated people’s responses to criticism based on six factors - negative thoughts toward the people criticizing a person’s work, negative thoughts toward the self, negative emotional responses to others and to the self, negative overt behaviours such as arguing, scowling or threatening to quit and negative or passive aggressive behaviours such as purposely slacking off or ignoring criticism completely and not making any recommended changes.

The study revealed people who are more defensive regarding criticism are less happy with their job, have low performance ratings and low self-esteem. The research stated women were more likely to take the criticism personally and being hard on themselves. Men were found to be more likely to take the criticism out on someone else, convinced the critic is wrong and arguing or disagreeing.

I have issues with the gender separation, but I’m not going to dispute the results. Either way, I have to agree that the way we respond to criticism plays a crucial role on how we view our job. It can make people bitter or happy, depending on how you react to it.

Learning to react positively to criticism as well as learning to give constructive criticism is very important. I think they are equally valued. PsychTests.com gave several tips on its website as to how to handle criticism better. It stated you should let go of your egos, accepting who you are and actively listen and learn. It also said you shouldn’t be ashamed of mistakes because everyone makes them and it doesn’t make us inferior to anyone else. It stated that “to admit a fault is a sign of strength.”

I believe reactions to criticisms go beyond the workplace and seep into our everyday lives, including our relationships with other people. It’s easy to blame yourself for making a mistake and getting criticized on it. It’s just as easy to blame others. Responding to criticism by insulting someone or calling them out in person, over the phone, over email or over text or video messaging is not helpful to anyone.

What we could all use a reminder of from time to time is to keep an open mind and learn how to take and give criticism better. No one is perfect, even if we pretend to be sometimes. Fostering a positive type of criticism is a fantastic way to let our relationships grow, whether it is with work, down time, someone else or another personal matter.

No one can avoid criticism. It’s just as much a part of human nature as it for all humans to make mistakes. If we can learn to handle criticism better from all angles we’re going to be happier at work and in our private lives. If anything it’ll help improve how we feel about ourselves and I believe that is one of the most important things.

Geographic location: Montreal

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