4 Steps to Taking Criticism Like a True Professional

Woman taking criticism from someone else and looking stressed.

There’s a reason people get nervous for their annual review, and it isn’t because of the potential praise and accompanying bonus. It’s the criticism part that has employees feeling a twinge of dread at the end of every December. But why is this?

Unless you’re a poor performer, this criticism is the key to improving and growing in your job, even your career. Constructive criticism is similar to looking at the answers in the back of the math book. You do what’s told and you pass (or get promoted).

The main issue is how we, as a society, perceive constructive criticism. According to this article on USA Today, women are more likely to see it as a personal attack, whereas men are more likely to view the critique-giver as being wrong and start an argument. Instead of falling into either of these categories, try the following steps next time you receive some constructive feedback.

  1. Consider the source. Is your manager telling you how to be more successful by changing a few things? In general, good managers want their people to succeed. They lay out the map to success by providing insight on how to do so. Take this as a compliment instead of an insult. This person wants you to succeed – and they told you how to do it. Even if the criticism is from a colleague, it’s most likely meant to better the team rather than attack your work.
  2. Let it sink in. Our first reaction when we’re being told something is wrong is to defend it. Instead of doing this, just listen. Take it in for a second and reflect. Is this indeed something you can improve on? The answer is usually yes because nobody’s perfect.
  3. Don’t react. If you’re someone who can’t contain your emotions in the moment, don’t react. Simply write down the critique and thank the person for their input. By not reacting, you keep your emotions in check and have time to reflect on the advice in a more objective way later.
  4. Accept it. Even if you disagree, this is what you have to do to succeed. Just accept it. There’s little point in arguing or stewing over it.

The best way to learn to take criticism well is to not view it as such. By viewing it as advice to get ahead rather than something you’re doing wrong, you can accept criticism with grace and dignity. At the very least, you can fake it ‘til you make it – there’s no shame in that.


  1. I like it, good advice. Criticism is hard to take. So instead of criticism think of it as advice. Sounds good. Thank you!

  2. What a joke! I’ve worked for people who go to church on Sunday and commit tax evasion,mail fraud, theft ect Monday through Saturday. If one buys into the argument here, you know what you get-Donald Trump! He doesn’t produce anything, takes credit for other’s work and makes pisspoor decisions which when they go belly up it’s always someone else’s fault!

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