8 Steps to Dealing with Criticism Effectively

I've been getting some constructive criticism from some folks in my church these past few weeks. I hate getting constructive criticism. You know why? Because it means I'm not perfect. It means I could be doing something better.

Photo by Zach Klein (Creative Commons)Photo by Zach Klein (Creative Commons)I would much rather hear someone say, "Way to go, pastor!" or "Great job, pastor!" That has a much sweeter ring to it, doesn't it?

Nobody's Perfect

The fact is I'm not perfect. Far from it, in fact. So I need to be able to hear, receive, and respond to constructive criticism.

Of course, you don't always know right away if it's constructive criticism they're actually offering or if they're just complaining.

So, what can you do?  A pastor friend of mine gave me some great advice that I want to share with you here. (By the way, I don't know if this technique originated with him or if it's from another source.  If you do know of whatever source this might have come from, please let me know in the comments.)

The 8 Steps

Here's what to do to when someone says they want to sit down and offer you some constructive criticism:

1. Take notes. Whenever I meet with someone who wants to offer criticism (constructive or destructive) I always take a notepad with me. It tells them I'm taking seriously what they have to say (and I am taking it seriously!). It also tells them I'm keeping a record of their words, just in case they're attitude is more destructive than constructive.
2. Let them say everything they need to say. Don't interrupt. Just take notes. When they seem to have said everything...
3. Say, "Let me see if I got it," then rephrase everything they just told you. This tells them that you were listening. It helps them to feel heard and understood. Sometimes that's all they're looking for. It also helps you know if you've understood what they're trying to communicate.
4. Ask, "Did I get it?" If you got it, they'll smile and say yes. If you didn't, they'll say it again and try to help you better understand.
5. Repeat the process. After they've finished speaking, ask again, "Let me see if I got it," and "Did I get it?" Keep going till they feel satisfied that you understand.
6. Ask, "Is there anything else?" Sometimes there's still something left unsaid and for it not to fester and become toxic, it needs to be said. Help them say it by asking this question.
7. Repeat the process. Keep asking these questions until everything that needs to be said has been said.
8. Tell them what you will do. If the criticism has been truly constructive, thank them for that. If you already know what you'll do to improve, tell them that. If you need time to think about what to do, tell them that.  And if all they were doing was complaining, thank them and tell them you'll take their thoughts into consideration.

The beauty of this process is that it helps you stay objective. You sit quietly, listen, take notes, and respond as appropriate.  Just remember, don't get defensive. Think of yourself as a researcher working to uncover a mystery.

Ok. So, in a nutshell, here's what you need to remember:

1. "Let me see if I got it."
2. "Did I get it?"
3. "Is there anything else?" 

How do you handle criticism?  How does this technique sound to you?  What techniques have you used to deal with criticism?

Add New Comment