Last month, we discussed receiving and benefiting from criticism.  But what if the criticism is unwarranted?

Let’s say someone lobs a feedback bomb in your direction which leaves you puzzled, if not staggering. You don’t feel it’s justified, so you ask for specifics, but your critic is unwilling or unable to provide any specific behavioral or situational proof to back up the remark.

In this case, using a positive tone of voice and body language, supply a reason or example which illustrates that you didn’t and don’t deserve that criticism. And add that now, you plan to document your own behavior to make sure that you’re not guilty of the criticism in the future, “because I want to be and be perceived as a strong member of the team.”

When you get invalid criticism from someone who has no authority over you, simply stay neutral. Respond in a professional way with, “That’s an interesting observation; I’ll give it some thought,” or ‘Thanks for letting me know.” Then quickly walk away. If you stay, you will be hit with a second comment to hook you into a mud-slinging, no-win game of attack-and-defend.

Sometimes, unfortunately, someone will criticize a characteristic of yours which you had always considered a strength: “You’re always so nitpicky about little stuff that doesn’t matter! Can’t you just once look at the big picture?!”

Begin by asking your critic for evidence that your approach is creating a problem. What is the negative result? If the person cites just one occurrence which caused a problem, you can thank him/her for the “insights” and promise to be more careful in the future. But if the person thinks your traits are a constant, ongoing problem, s/he’s implying that nothing less than a personality transplant will do!

Again, promise to be more aware of how you interact with others in the future, but (without arguing) also point out the benefits of your approach. (Be sure you don’t counter-accuse at this point: “Well, you can’t seem to big-picture-think your way out of a paper bag!”) Just explain in a friendly way what you bring to the table.

Remember, you may need to promote yourself any time, so be prepared to articulate the positive aspects and results of your approach. Be ready to furnish examples and occasions when your personality strengths benefited the organization, so that you won’t be bowled over when you’re hit below the proverbial belt.

What if a personality clash occurs with your boss?  Do you want (and is it even possible for you) to take on new characteristics?  If you can’t sell your own personality or thinking approach to your boss as an asset, dust off your resume.

Whatever feedback you receive, put your emotions aside, think it through, and respond professionally. As Confucius observed, “It is only the wisest and the stupidest that do not change.”

Meanwhile, I wish you the happiest of holidays!

If your organization would like a keynote speech or training program
on this or other topics, contact Jeanne at  (402) 475-1127 or
visit me on the web at
Copyright 2009 Creative Training Solutions