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How To Take Criticism Like Donald Trump

How To Take Criticism Like Donald Trump

Donald Trump & Melania (Courtesy of Boss Tweed via flickr)

    Donald Trump & Melania (Courtesy of Boss Tweed via flickr)

    I’ve noticed lately that people aren’t very good at handling criticism, even when they’ve asked for it.

    Our natural tendency when given advice or criticism is to become defensive and upset. We try to convince the person they’re wrong (or at least to see it from our perspective) which, ironically, has the exact opposite of the intended effect.

    Know what the single most effective way is to disarm criticism?  Agree with it.

    You can imagine some common situations where this might come up…

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    • You’re making a presentation at work and afterward someone asks a “hostile” question which challenges you in front of everyone.
    • You’re selling your car and a potential buyer comments that the color or condition is really not to their liking.
    • A friend/mentor/family member tries to offer you some honest feedback which you feel is totally unwarranted.

    Most people will react to all of these in a similar way: a defensive and reactive position.  You can immediately see it in their eyes: it is an emotional response and they get upset.

    • “Actually I made the chart that way on purpose.  I included the extra data because it’s important to the overall message and the other people I showed it to didn’t think it detracted from the presentation at all.”
    • “Really, you don’t like the color?  That’s strange because I get compliments on it all the time.  It’s hard to find this color actually, it’s a rare commodity.”
    • “What do you mean I’m not focused?  I work really hard.  I mean just because I’m doing those two things doesn’t mean I can’t put all my effort into it!”

    In each of these cases, have you convinced the person of your point of view?  Most likely the answer is no.  In fact, you have further reinforced their original belief in their own mind.  If you could spell out the internal dialog going on in their heads it would be something like this:

    • “Woa!  I guess I hit a nerve with that one.  SOMEBODY can’t take advice…not only does the chart suck but he/she is in denial about it, nice!”
    • “Great…you love the color idiot.  You’re not buying it, I am, and I’m losing interest by the second because you’re starting to annoy me.”
    • “Geez…I guess I won’t bring that up again.  It’s a shame because we’ve all know this about John for years…it’s obvious to all of us but we just can’t seem to get it through to him.  Maybe if a few more of us mention it.”

    There is an important rule behind all of this that I’d like you to remember:

    The more defensive you become, the more likely that the person criticizing you is actually right!

    Really…think about it for a moment.  What if someone came up to you and said “Your name is Bubba Gump”.  Would this upset you?  Since your name is obviously NOT Bubba Gump, this is a ridiculous accusation and the chances of this getting an emotional response out of you are slim.

    But what if someone came up to you and said “You smell bad”.  Well, it’s still pretty ridiculous but you know what, we all do smell bad at times, and hey…there may be a little bit of truth to that.  You might start to get a little bit defensive: “What?  I don’t smell bad, what are you talking about?”

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    Now if we look at a statement that is even farther along the spectrum: “You are actually the most selfish person that I know.  All of your friends talk about you behind your back and say how selfish you are.  If you dropped dead tomorrow no one would care.”  Now THAT is likely to get an emotional response!  Why?  Because there is some truth to it.  We all are a little selfish sometimes and think about ourselves probably more than we should.  And, even though its unpleasant to think about, if we did drop dead tomorrow a lot of people wouldn’t care!  Damnit, they’re right and that pisses me off!  (An emotional response.)

    Since I’ve learned this, it has played out to be true in my own life.  Whenever someone makes a comment that really gets to me, I’ll end up finding out (usually much later) that they were actually mostly right.  Think back to an example in your own life when a comment really got to you personally.  Did it end up being true?

    How To Diffuse Any Criticism

    Hopefully that gives you a little insight into criticism and when you should take it seriously.  Now lets focus on how to diffuse criticism that you don’t want.

    At the beginning I said that the secret to diffusing criticism is to agree with it.  I can hear you asking, “but Brian, what if the criticism really is wrong??  I can’t just agree with it!”

    True, but you can do what I call “tacitly agreeing” or “indirect agreement”.  You do this by saying something like “thats a good point, thanks for that” or “you know you’re right, there might be some truth to that, I’ll have to consider it”.

    Have you really agreed to anything?  No.  But you have taken the wind out of their sails.

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    Imagine for a moment someone giving a speech in front of a huge audience.  The speaker finishes and Q&A begins where the audience can ask questions.  The first question comes from a very hostile listener who clearly disagrees with everything that has been said.  He or she begins their rant (disguised as a question), very eager to have the stage for a moment, and begins to insult and criticize every notion that the speaker has brought up.  The rest of the audience is silently thinking to themselves “wow this is really uncomfortable, this guy is really going at it”.  Finally, the speaker has a chance to respond.

    There are really two ways he could respond, and I want you to think about what each response communicates to the audience.  The “subtext”, if you will.

    The first response he could give would be to fight back against the questioner with as much force as was used against him.  He could get upset and use words like “obviously, you don’t understand the very basic premise of this concept if you’re going to say that, what a ridiculous thing to say”.  The audience would see his emotional response and think “wow that really got to him, he lost his composure”.  In the back of their minds they’ll also be thinking “you know if he got that upset by it, maybe the guy was at least partially right, now I’m not sure”.

    The second response he could give would be to diffuse the criticism with tacit agreement.  “You know [slight laugh], that’s a great point thank you for bringing that up.  I’ll take that under consideration.  Ok…next question over here…”  In other words: treat it as if the guy had just said “Your name is Bubba Gump!”  It’s not even worth answering.  It’s as if a child had said it.  The audience’s perception is now the complete opposite: “wow that was really embarrassing for the guy who just asked that ridiculous question, he looked like a total idiot”.

    Getting emotionally upset gives your power away to the criticizer.

    Watch The Master Of This At Work: Donald Trump

    Whether you love him or hate, the next time you see Donald Trump on some news show, watch a master of diffusing criticism at work.  One of the other guests will usually rail into him, calling him all sorts of bad things and accusing him of publicity stunts, business failures, and misogyny.  What is Trump’s response?  He will usually tacitly agree and change the subject, the whole time as cool as a cucumber.  You’ll never see him get upset.

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    Someone could say “Mr. Trump is quite possibly one of the most dishonest people that I’ve seen in recent memory, he routinely exaggerates his business dealings, and I know personally a number of people who will never deal with him again.”

    The host will then turn it back over to Trump, and ask for his response.  “That’s right Larry, I mean this is an exciting time for the New York real estate market, and it’s great to see so many new people getting involved, there is going to be a small fortune made over the next few years by smart investors.”

    The accuser is thinking “wait, what just happened?  I called him a liar and he is talking about real estate sounding so happy.  He made me look like a whiny little kid.  Now I’m upset!”  Meanwhile, the audience has all but forgotten and is focused on something else.

    When taking criticism…

    • Tacitly agree and don’t get upset (this is how you lose your power)
    • Remember that the more upset you get, the more likely they were right
    • Don’t argue back, you’re not convincing people of anything
    • Finally, accept (and actively seek out) criticism from friends and mentors with an open mind.  You’ll find out things about yourself that everyone else has known for years but was too afraid to tell you.

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    Last Updated on March 14, 2019

    7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

    7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

    Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

    For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

    Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

    1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

    A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

    It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

    It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

    How it helps you:

    If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

    Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

    2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

    Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

    Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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    How it helps you:

    Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

    Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

    If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

    Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

    3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

    Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

    Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

    How it helps you:

    This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

    For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

    Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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    A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

    4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

    To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

    A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

    How it helps you:

    One word: hierarchy.

    All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

    In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

    If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

    5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

    Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

    Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

    How it helps you:

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    Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

    If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

    This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

    6. What do you like about working here?

    This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

    Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

    How it helps you:

    You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

    Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

    Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

    7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

    What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

    As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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    How it helps you:

    What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

    First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

    Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

    Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

    Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

    Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

    Making Your Interview Work for You

    Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

    Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

    More Resources About Job Interviews

    Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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