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Handling Criticism: 6 Options to Get Through It

Handling Criticism: 6 Options to Get Through It

criticism

    Everyone’s a critic, right? Everyone has an opinion, everyone’s willing to tell you what you’re doing wrong, everyone’s ready to tell you how to lead your life. To be completely honest, most of us don’t want to hear it. Whether it’s coming from Dad or the boss, we’re pretty much content to just zone out and hope that we can say, “Whatever you say,” at the right point. Even when someone’s offering up constructive criticism, it can be hard to take.

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    Taking criticism is a skill — and being able to learn from harsh criticism requires a pretty extreme level of proficiency. There are a few ways to build up your tolerance for criticism, though, and to move closer to that level, even if you can’t convince your critics to make the switch to a more constructive approach.

    1. Ask for criticism in writing

    Listening to someone go on and on about what you aren’t getting right is extremely difficult. After even just a few minutes it can take the patience of a saint to refrain from telling a critic exactly where they can put their comments. But if you can ask a critic to write down his or her comments, it’s worth the effort. You’ll have a little more distance when you go over the criticism in question (and if you decide that you aren’t going to actually read those notes, you have a little more leeway to do so). You might also find that more than a few critics will decide against the effort required to write out their thoughts.

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    2. Resolve valid criticism

    Harsh criticism isn’t exactly a great way to motivate change, but in some cases the criticism does come about from a valid issue. If you find yourself on the receiving end of some unfriendly opinions, it’s worth finding out if such a concern is actually valid. Ask someone external to the situation for an opinion, run some numbers — whatever it takes to make a decision one way or the other. If you come to the conclusion that it isn’t valid, ignore the remarks and go do something happy. If it is valid, you may need to consider addressing it.

    3. Get concrete details

    One of the most frustrating types of criticism is the variety where you don’t actually get any information on what you’re supposed to change. More than a few disapproving authority figures will launch into a litany of the many things they think you’re doing wrong. If you can get them to switch to more constructive criticism, you can cut a critical conversation short with something along the lines of, “If I do this, you’ll be be happy?” Actually doing it, of course, remains up to you.

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    4. Head your critics off at the pass

    There are some people who’s function in life seems to offer criticism, deserved or not. Of the top of your head, you can probably think of a handful of such individuals that you have to deal with. For many such critics, though, you can often redirect them to other conversations: ask them about their own projects, their families or whatever they’re interested in. You’ll probably still get an earful or two, but if you can head off their criticism and bring the conversation around to something more comfortable, it will be easier to handle the remaining criticism.

    5. Recognize that some people really don’t have anything better to do

    Constructive criticism is one thing, but some people spend most of their day making harsh evaluations that aren’t exactly helpful to the recipient. It’s a fact of life, and the only way to deal with such people is generally to ignore them or deal with them. Depending on how important they are to you — ignoring a parent is rarely practical — your best option may be to just do what you can to make them happy and just wait until they leave the room to do your own things. It’s not the best of situations, but it’s an option that many people have used.

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    6. Keep your emotions out of it

    It’s easier said than done, but responding defensively or getting emotional during a critical discussion just draws it out longer. If you’re not defensive of your behavior (whether you’re right or wrong), most critics will take that as a sign that you’re at least considering their comments — making them at least a little happier about the situation. If you can manage this sort of approach, you’ll at least get out of the discussion that much faster.

    Criticism is complex: on the one hand, we want to please our supervisors, our family, our friends — all those people in a position to offer criticism. But at the same time, it’s rare that we can resolve every complaint or will want to. That means that handling critiques, rather than necessarily responding to them, is an important skill for most of us to get by.

    But criticism also an issue of personality. Some people are just better equipped emotionally, to listen to an evaluation of their performance. That means that different methods of handling criticism (or outright avoiding it) are necessary, especially when avoiding the emotional aspects of criticism just doesn’t seem possible. These approaches are just a few that I’ve used or seen over the years. If you’ve had luck with a different approach, tell us about it in the comments.

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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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