Phil Cooke is a friend of mine. He wrote a book called, “One Big Thing”. In it, he gives three suggestions for dealing with critics that you WILL run into when you lead. I practice these and they do work:
#1) TAKE IT
Don’t be defensive and fire back. Listen and learn. It may be completely ridiculous, but even the worst critics sometimes stumble onto a grain of truth. My opinion is that we can always learn and grow, so never shut the door on a critic too quickly. Even though you may think it’s unfair (and it may well be), take it. Listen to the critic and see if there’s anything there worth changing.
#2) ADMIT YOUR MISTAKES
Nothing so surprises and disarms a critic like someone who agrees with him. If it’s good criticism, your admission is appropriate and welcomed. Even if it’s not good criticism, then you’ve taken away his ammunition. Don’t argue. Just say thank you and move on. In most situations, graciously accepting criticism usually catches the critic off-guard and in many cases, silences him.
#3) GENTLY EXPLAIN THE REASONS FOR YOUR ACTION
I have a quote from Plato on my computer desktop: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Sometimes we mess up, don’t know what the other person is going through and simply make mistakes in judgement. On the flip side, the critics don’t know everything behind your actions either. So, without being defensive, explain yourself. It’s not about rationalizing or explaining away the criticism, but informing the critic of what you were thinking. In many cases, once he or she realizes your motivation, the comment will be dropped.
It’s actually not the criticism, but how you handle it that matters. The experience can make you better or can destroy you. The decision is yours.
How will you respond?