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Quiz: how well do you handle criticism?

Whether it’s in a professional setting or in everyday life, getting criticised can be tough. Often, it’s easy to fall into the trap of taking feedback personally, but Dr Melissa O’Shea, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology in Deakin’s Faculty of Health, says it’s rarely a personal attack.

‘In the main, what might be experienced as personal criticism, is usually feedback on specific behaviours or performance that relates to a role,’ she explains. ‘So, separating that from who you are is really important.’

If you’re able to reframe criticism in a positive light, it can actually be a great tool for your personal growth and development.

‘Particularly when we’re early in a job, or when we’re just starting out in a new course, there’s lots of things we don’t know, so feedback is important in helping us develop ourselves,’ Dr O’Shea says.

‘Typically, teachers, managers and others want the best for us and offer feedback to support our development. The more we can hear feedback through this lens, the more likely it is that we will respond to it in a way that is positive.’

When someone is particularly blunt or the critique seems uncalled for, it can be difficult to take that step back and view it from an objective lens. But ignoring it or rejecting it can end up more harmful in the long term, as you’re avoiding valuable learning opportunities.

‘Of course, there are situations where you feel the feedback is unreasonable and perhaps unfair or inaccurate in some way,’ Dr O’Shea says. But before hiding from it, or actively battling it, refer to her tips for taking feedback on board: ‘Taking a moment, clarifying what the feedback is, asking for time to think about it.’

And sometimes, she says, ‘it is perfectly okay to agree to disagree and not actively respond at all’.

‘A person may have a particular perspective, and you need to think, “Is there value in me going in to bat around this particular issue, or is it something that I am comfortable to let go, avoiding an unnecessary confrontation?”’

Take the quiz below to find out how you handle criticism.

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Dr Melissa O'Shea
Dr Melissa O'Shea

Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology, Faculty of Health, Deakin
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