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Published on April 12, 2021

How to Take Constructive Criticism Like a Champ

How to Take Constructive Criticism Like a Champ

Did somebody just say the words “constructive criticism”? Great, just what I need—someone to tell me how to do my job, like I don’t know how to flawlessly execute on my job. Well, maybe not flawlessly, but I think I know what I’m doing thank you very much.

This is how many people react when they hear the term constructive criticism. And it makes sense, as most of us don’t like to have someone telling us how we did something wrong or how we can do better. We like to feel like we are good at the things we choose to do unless, of course, we are trying something new. We take a certain amount of pride in how we do our various jobs and don’t like to have our shortcomings pointed out to us.

Before we get too worked up, let’s take a look at what constructive criticism is and how we can utilize it to help us improve at work or wherever we want to. we will learn that constructive criticism can be used to our advantage.

What Is Constructive Criticism?

First and foremost, it would be helpful to make sure we have a good understanding of what constructive criticism is.

When we hear the word “criticism,” our minds typically think negatively and hostile—like one person is standing over another person telling them that the way they are doing something is all wrong. And that is being critical.

However, this is not the intent of constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is a helpful way of providing feedback that provides specific and actionable suggestions. Instead of one person acting like a manager giving a team member general non-specific advice, constructive criticism is specific to the actions and situation. Given properly, it provides specific and clear recommendations on how to make changes and improvements that will lead to a more positive outcome in a given situation.

Accepting Constructive Criticism

As we just read, constructive criticism is provided to help someone improve in one manner or another. It’s not negative generalities or complaining, it’s specific actionable input provided with the intent of helping someone improve on something they’ve done so they get more desirable results the next time.

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This is exactly the context in which you should accept constructive criticism. It is meant to help you improve. Anyone who is interested in getting better and better at their job or craft should welcome it.

Think about a time when you got a big win at work or were part of a team that scored a big win. What an incredible feeling! Now, think about a time when a big project crashed and burned at work, or you didn’t land a huge new client, or your team played poorly and lost a big game—not a good feeling.

The way you handle these losses and learn from them to get better and score more “wins” is just like receiving constructive criticism. Learn from what went wrong to make things go right more often.

How to Handle Constructive Criticism

Now that we have a clear idea of what constructive criticism is, let’s look at the best ways to handle constructive criticism.

1. Stop Your Initial Reaction

When you see that some criticism is about to come your way, recognize it. Make yourself see what’s about to happen and tell yourself you will not react.

The key here is stopping any sort of reaction you are going to have when your brain realizes what’s about to happen. The challenge is that our first reaction is not generally a good one, and we don’t want to wear an initial expression that comes off as highly defensive or angry.

2. Don’t Take It Personally

I’m so happy I fully embrace and believe in the “don’t take anything personally” mentality. It’s important to remember that nobody is doing something to you specifically. They are sharing their personal experience and insights from what they’ve learned and seen. This does not make it universally right, it’s simply the way they’ve experienced it. And we all have different experiences that make each of our points of view unique. It’s not about you, it’s about the situation. Don’t take it personally.

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3. Remember the Benefit

This is a good thing to do when your first initial reaction of “no” comes into your mind. Receiving constructive criticism is a way to help yourself improve. Remember that you don’t have to digest and implement every single suggestion word for word. Take the parts that resonate with you and use them the next time a similar situation comes around. This is how we learn and grow.

4. Listen to Understand

Active listening

is very important here. Make sure that you are paying full attention to the speaker’s words and body language. You are attempting to understand completely so you are able to truly process the feedback and utilize it down the road. Keep your eyes and ears on the speaker and be present in the moment of receiving the feedback.

5. Be Thankful

It’s not easy to be thankful when someone is telling you how you could have done something better. This is where you put on your “big person pants” and tell them, “thank you for taking the time to share the feedback.”.

If you think about it, they most likely want the best for you. Why else would they be taking the time to share their insights and input with you? If they didn’t care or have a vested interest, why would they take the time? Exactly. Remember this when saying thank you.

6. Ask Questions to Understand Fully

This is where you want to ask clarifying questions to make sure you are fully understanding what the person is saying to you. Make sure you are on the same page as what they are telling you. If you don’t take the time to ask questions to clear up any confusion, then, in the long run, this feedback won’t be of much value to you.

Using Criticisms to Improve

Now, let’s take a look at how constructive criticism helps us improve, as we’ve read that reviewing when things don’t go right and analyzing why they didn’t go right help us figure out ways to change what we did to gain better results next time.

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1. Feedback Is Always Helpful

The first way you can use constructive criticism to improve is by acknowledging that feedback is always helpful. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all feedback is beneficial to you. It just means that it’s helpful.

You may disagree wholeheartedly on part of the feedback you receive, and that’s fine. The main thing to remember is that it’s always helpful. Gathering data, reviewing, and listening to others help you look at situations from an angle different than your own.

Speaking of which…

2. You Get Another Point of View

A great thing about listening to someone provide constructive criticism to you is that you get another point of view. Too many times we base what we think we should do on only our own perceptions of something. It’s very possible to be so close to something that you don’t truly see it in an objective light.

I know from back when I was an artist, I could get very locked into a certain project or painting. When I finally would take a break and ask someone else what they thought, many times they pointed out things I’d never noticed or thought of. The same concept applies here.

3. It Shows You Are Worth It

When someone takes the time to provide constructive criticism to you, it shows that they care and feel like you are worth it. They wouldn’t take the time if they didn’t think it would matter or that you weren’t worth it. This is something to think about the next time your manager wants to offer you some insight or advice.

4. It Helps You Improve

If you are willing to truly listen to constructive criticism, it can help you improve greatly. I think about a wide variety of times when I’ve gotten feedback and constructive criticism. I am known to invite it.

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I look at it like this—we are all on the same team (whether that’s an actual team or work team) and trying to work towards the same goal. What can I do better that can help us collectively win as a team? I like to think that I’m pretty good at what I do. I also know that I can always get better. Help me to help you, which helps us both.

5. It Can Inspire You

Finally, constructive criticism can inspire you. Sometimes, the person providing you feedback will make you see something you never saw about yourself. This is how another point of view can be so valuable. This can be incredibly eye-opening and sometimes be even one of those “Aha!” moments.

Summary

We’ve looked at what constructive criticism is and how to accept it. We’ve seen how if we allow ourselves to listen and accept the feedback, it can incredibly valuable to our growth and improvement. Constructive criticism can help us get better and better at what we do. Not any less important, we’ve discovered how to take constructive criticism like a champ.

Remember, getting feedback from others is critical to our growth in many areas of our life. Use constructive criticism to improve yourself.

More About Constructive Criticism

Featured photo credit: Mimi Thian via unsplash.com

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Mat Apodaca

On a mission to share about how communication in the workplace and personal relationships plays a large role in your happiness

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Last Updated on April 26, 2021

How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?

How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?

One of the biggest realizations I had as a kid is that teaching in school could be hit or miss for students. We all have our own different types of learning styles. Even when I was in study groups, we all had our own ways of uncovering solutions to questions.

It wasn’t only until later in my life did I realize how important it is to know your own learning style. As soon as you know how you learn and the best way to learn, you can better retain information. This information could be crucial to your job, future promotions, and overall excelling in life.

Best of all about this information is that, it’s not hard to figure out what works best for you. There are broad categories of learning styles, so it’s a matter of finding which one we gravitate towards most.

What Are the Types of Learning Styles?

Before we get into the types of learning styles, there’s one thing to know:

We all learn through repetition.

No matter how old you are, studies show that repetition allows us to retain and learn new information.[1] The big question now is what kind of repetition is needed. After all, we all learn and process information differently.

This is where the types of learning styles come in. There are eight in total and there is one or two that we prefer over others. This is important because when reading these learning styles, you’ll feel like you’d prefer a mixture of these styles.

That’s because we do prefer a combination. Though there will be one style that will be more predominate over the others. The key is finding which one it is.

Visual Learning

A visual learner (also known as the spatial learner) excels at deciphering anything visual – typically maps and graphs.

If you are this type of learner, you likely excelled at geometry in math class but struggled with arithmetic and numbers. To this day, you might also struggle with reading and writing to a degree.

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While visual learners are described as “late bloomers,” they are highly imaginative. They also process what they see much faster than what they hear.

Verbal Learning

Verbal learning, on the other hand, is learning through what’s spoken. Verbal learners excel in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Because of that, they are likely the ones to find thrills in tongue twists, word games, and puns.

They also thoroughly enjoy drama, writing, and speech classes. But give them maps, or challenge them to think outside of the box and they’ll struggle a bit.

Logical Learning

Not to be confused with visual learners, these learners are good at math and logic puzzles. Anything involving numbers or other abstract visual information is where they excel.

They can also analyze cause and effect relationships quite well. Part of that is due to their thinking process being linear.

Another big difference is their need to quantify everything. These people love grouping information, creating specific lists, agendas or itineraries.

They also have a love for strategy games and making calculations in their heads.

Auditory Learning

Similar to verbal learning, this type of learning style focuses on sounds on a deeper level. These people think chronologically and excel more in the step-by-step methods. These are likely the people who will watch Youtube videos to learn or do something the most.

These learners also have a great memory of conversations and love debates and discussions. Chances are likely these people excel at anything oral.

Also as the name suggests, these individuals have great musical talents. They can decern notes, instruments, rhythms and tones. That being said, they will have a tough time interpreting body language, expressions and gestures. This also applies to charts, maps and graphs.

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Social Learning

Otherwise known as the interpersonal learner, their skills are really unique. They don’t particularly excel in classrooms but rather through talking to other people.

These are the people who are excited for group conversations or group projects. Mainly because they are gifted with coming up with ideas and discussing them.

They also have a good understanding of people’s emotions, facial expressions, and relationship dynamics. They are also likely the first people to point out the root causes of communication issues.

Intrapersonal Learning

The reverse of interpersonal learning, these people prefer learning alone. These are the people who love self-study and working alone. Typically, intrapersonal learners are deeply in tune with themselves meaning they know who they are, their feelings, and their own capabilities.

This type of learning style means you love learning something on your own and typically every day. You also have innate skills in managing yourself and indulging in self-reflection.

Physical Learning

Also known as kinesthetic learning, these people love doing things with their hands. These are people who loved pottery or shop class. If you’re a physical learner, you’ll find you have a huge preference in using your body in order to learn.

This means not just pottery or shop class you enjoyed. You may also have loved sports or any other art medium like painting or woodwork. Anything that involved you learning through physical manipulation you enjoyed and excelled at.

Though this doesn’t just apply to direct physical activities. A physical learner may also find that they learn well when both reading on any subject and pacing or bouncing your leg at the same time.

Naturalistic Learning

The final learning style is naturalistic. These are people who process information through patterns in nature. They also apply scientific reasoning in order to understand living creatures.

Not many people may be connected to this one out of the types of learning styles primarily because of those facts. Furthermore, those who excel in this learning end up being farmers, naturalists or scientists.

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These are the people who love everything with nature. They appreciate plants, animals, and rural settings deeply compared to others.

How to Know Which One(s) Suit You Better?

So now that you have an idea of all the types of learning styles we have another question:

Which one(s) are best for you?

As a reminder, all of us learn through a combination of these learning styles. This makes pinpointing these styles difficult since our learning is likely a fusion of two or more of those styles.

Fortunately, there are all kinds of methods to narrow down which learner you are. Let’s explore the most popular one: the VARK model.

VARK Model

Developed by Neil Fleming and David Baume, the VARK model is basically a conversation starter for teachers and learners.[2] It takes the eight types of learning styles above and condenses them into four categories:

  • Visual – those who learn from sight.
  • Auditory – those who learn from hearing.
  • Reading/writing – those who learn from reading and writing.
  • Kinesthetic – those who learn from doing and moving.

As you can probably tell, VARK comes from the first letter of each style.

But why use this particular model?

This model was created not only for discussion purposes but for learners to know a few key things — namely understanding how they learn.

Because our school system is focusing on a one-size-fits-all model, there are many of us who struggle learning in school. While we may no longer go to school, these behaviors persisted into our adult lives regardless. While we aren’t learning about algebra or science, we may be learning new things about our job or industry. Knowing how to best retain that information for the future helps in so many ways.

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As such, it can be frustrating when we’re in a classroom setting and aren’t understanding anything. That or maybe we’re listening to a speech or reading a book and have no clue what’s going on.

This is where VARK comes back in. To quote Fleming and Baume:

“VARK above all is designed to be a starting place for a conversation among teachers and learners about learning. It can also be a catalyst for staff development- thinking about strategies for teaching different groups can lead to more, and appropriate, variety of learning and teaching.”

Getting into the specifics, this is what’s known as metacognition.[3] It helps you to understand how you learn and who you are. Think of it as a higher order of thinking that takes control over how you learn. It’s impossible to not use this while learning.

But because of that metacognition, we can pinpoint the different types of learning styles that we use. More importantly, what style we prefer over others.

Ask These Questions

One other method that I’ll mention is the research that’s done at the University of Waterloo.[4] If you don’t want to be using a lot of brainpower to pinpoint, consider this method.

The idea with this method is to answer a few questions. Since our learning is a combination of styles, you’ll find yourself leaning to one side over the other with these questions:

  • The active/reflective scale: How do you prefer to process information?
  • The sensing/intuitive scale: How do you prefer to take in information?
  • The visual/verbal scale: How do you prefer information to be presented?
  • The sequential/global scale: How do you prefer to organize information?

This can narrow down how you learn and provide some other practical tips for enhancing your learning experience.

Final Thoughts

Even though we have a preferred style of learning and knowing what that is is beneficial, learning isn’t about restriction. Our learning style shouldn’t be the sole learning style we rely on all the time.

Our brain is made of various parts and whatever style we learn activates certain parts of the brain. Because of this fact, it would be wise to consider other methods of learning and to give them a try.

Each method I mentioned has its merits and there’s not one dominate or superior method. What method we like is entirely up to our preferences. So be flexible with those preferences and uncover what style works best for you.

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Featured photo credit: Anna Earl via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] BrainScape: Repetition is the mother of all learning
[2] Neil Fleming and David Baume: VARKing Up the Right Tree
[3] ERIC: Metacognition: An Overview
[4] University of Waterloo: Understanding Your Learning Style

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