3 simple strategies for responding to criticism

3 simple strategies for responding to criticism

How do you respond when someone says “You’re wrong”? Do you whip out your boxing gloves or start wagging your tail? 

I have to admit, I’m more of a tail-wagger, so I am likely to take all opinions into consideration, even the ones that don’t deserve it. If you are on the “boxing glove” side of the spectrum, you may have such strong self-confidence that you ignore all opinions, even those that merit consideration. In a management role, going to extremes with either tendency can be dangerous and jeopardize trust among your employees.

To help move the pendulum closer to center, implement one or more of the following strategies:

    1. Find someone who cares about you but will tell you the truth. John Blakey calls this person your “sheriff.” This person can help you gain some perspective on the situation and keep you from beating yourself up.

    2. Take time to consider the situation. Get some space (physically and emotionally). In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to react with an extreme version of your natural tendency. Abraham Lincoln reportedly wrote out his thoughts in “hot letters” which he kept to himself until he was in a cooler temper.

    3. Spend time in self-reflection and development. Personality assessments such as DISC or Meyers-Briggs are great places to start. Once you know what side of the spectrum you lean toward, you can develop practices and safeguards to bring you back to center.

    In the end, the goal is not to eliminate your natural tendencies – they are part of what makes you a great leader! The goal is growth and greater self-awareness which will make you stronger and more trustworthy. Your team doesn’t want to follow someone who’s always right – they want to follow someone they can trust.

    Meet the author

    With a diverse background in leadership, teaching, communication, and program management, Melinda Siems brings a wealth of knowledge and practical experience to our work. We’re thrilled to welcome her to the team and leverage her expertise and talents as we continually seek to better serve you.



    STETTNER, M. (2016, July 8). Rather Than Brush Over Mistakes, Leaders Confront Them Head-On. Investors Business Daily, 1.


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    Using the 5 languages of appreciation

    Using the 5 languages of appreciation

    We tend to communicate with others using style norms that come most naturally to us—direct vs. indirect, people-focused vs. fact-focused, etc. While not inherently good or bad, our ability to effectively communicate and truly connect with colleagues improves when considering their preferred style, not just our own. This awareness of and adaptation to others’ preferences is known as the Platinum Rule: treat others the way they want to be treated.

    This rule applies to all forms of communication, including how we demonstrate appreciation for others. On a subconscious level, your brain is continuously scanning for a sense of importance and belonging at work, asking questions such as: Am I valued here? Do others care about me? Is my work appreciated?

    When we perceive negative responses to these questions, the brain experiences a social threat. What’s fascinating, and perhaps most alarming, is that the brain processes this social threat in the same way that it processes a physical threat. As the survival mechanism and emotional reaction take over, we lose access to the brain’s executive functions and critical thinking becomes somewhat inaccessible. Unfortunately, this is the part of our brain we need to keep online and functioning if we want to perform our best at work.

    The same applies to our employees and colleagues. If they don’t feel valued and appreciated, their brains experience this same reaction and they, too, lose access to their best thinking and work. That’s a problem.

    So let’s ensure they do feel valued. Let’s intentionally communicate in a way that is meaningful to them. Each person’s language of appreciation is different, and we risk miscommunication when taking a “one size fits all” approach.

    Using the five languages of appreciation, created by Drs. Gary Chapman and Paul White, can help you identify each employees’ preferred language and learn how to adjust your communication to better connect with them.

    I recommend the following next steps.

    1. Take the assessment. You can access the comprehensive Motivating By Appreciation assessment online or by purchasing the book. Alternatively, I’ve created a condensed version, influenced by my own question design over the past few years that I use in team workshops—download it here. (You’ll notice that I do not include “physical touch” in the assessment, but do offer tips for appropriately communicating it in the workplace in step 4 below.)


    2. Ask team members to complete the assessment.

    3. Discuss as a team. In addition to discussing overall results and insights, have each team member share the following:

    – 3 meaningful ways to communicate appreciation for me and my work are…

    – 1 thing others should avoid doing that makes me feel unappreciated is…

    – Today’s distanced environment has impacted my feelings of appreciation from and connection with the team in these ways…

    4. Implement! Use awareness of the languages of appreciation to apply the Platinum Rule with your colleagues. Scroll through the slides below for tips on ways to better communicate with different styles.



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