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No one likes being criticized, but sometimes criticism is the first step toward growth as an individual. When you are in college, your professors have a responsibility to provide you with a fair amount of constructive feedback so you can learn your craft well. Learning how to respond to it will help you be a better student and, eventually, a better professional. Here is some information you can use to learn how to receive feedback with an open mind, even when it is in the form of constructive criticism.

What is Constructive Criticism?

Criticism and critique never feel good, but constructive criticism is a type of feedback method that provides specific, actionable recommendations about what to do to improve one’s work. Constructive criticism is focused on helping the person make honest changes, not tearing them down.

Construction criticism is also clear and direct. It provides the recipient with steps they can take immediately to fix an error, problem, or concern and make positive changes. This type of feedback cannot be vague because if it is, the individual will not be able to make the appropriate changes.

How to Take Constructive Criticism

If you receive criticism, it can sting. Sometimes that sting makes it difficult for the recipient of criticism to recognize that they are getting constructive criticism. So how do you move forward after receiving this type of comment? Consider these ideas:

  • Do not react. Stay calm when the person comes to you because your first reaction is likely going to be negative.
  • Learn to listen. Listen carefully to the person and focus on understanding exactly what they are saying and why.
  • Understand the benefits of feedback. Instead of viewing constructive criticism as a form of criticism, view it as a form of feedback. This slight change in perspective will help you accept it better.
  • Thank the person. Tell them, “Thank you” for their perspective, even if you disagree with what they are telling you. This will show the proper level of respect for the professor as they are trying to help you grow and develop.
  • Ask questions to get more feedback. If you do not understand something the person said, then consider asking a few questions to get clarity. Do not ask questions in a defensive way, but rather in an attempt to better understand the feedback so you can move toward a solution.
  • Request a follow-up time. If you can, ask your professor if you can come back with additional information or with the recommended corrections made.

Responding to Constructive Criticism

As you respond to constructive criticism, avoid the temptation to become angry and defensive. This can turn you into someone who is on the attack and being aggressive when talking to someone is never wise. This can cause you to make personal attacks, which is especially unwise in a college setting.

Never interrupt while someone is providing you with valuable feedback. Remember, they could be spending their time in another way, but they valued you enough to provide feedback, so learn to listen to it.

While you are listening, do not spend too much time analyzing or questioning the person’s ability to assess the situation. In the case of a professor, you are already asking this person to provide you with education, and constructive criticism is part of your education. So, take the criticism to heart, and determine if there are things you should change. If so, make the necessary changes.

Examples of Responding to Constructive Criticism

Consider an example of a professor in a psychology class. The professor pulls you aside to tell you that your take on the paper you just turned in is incorrect, and he offers you a chance to re-do the paper for the same credit. The next steps would be to thank the professor for his input and then to take steps to rewrite the paper. You could say, “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I was unaware of this additional research you pointed out. I appreciate the opportunity to fix my mistake.”

Here is another example. Consider a class that has a debate. Your professor approaches you after and says he felt you were getting too heated during the debate. A good response would be to say, “Can you give me some examples of how I got too heated? If the professor has specific examples of your aggressive behavior, say “thank you” and make an effort to do better in the future.

Finally, consider an example where you may not agree with your professor. Perhaps you have a portfolio project you have turned in. You felt like you did an excellent job on it. Yet the professor hands it back with a comment about what you could do next time to improve the project. When you read the feedback, you do not agree with the professor’s position. In this specific example, you can thank the professor and ask if you can state your own opinion on the topic.

If given permission, respectfully explain why you took the stance you did. You just might find that you persuade your instructor by doing all of this with respect. So, you could say, “Thank you for your feedback. Did you consider Dr. Smith’s view on the matter? I was pulling from his research when I made this report. What are your thoughts?” This opens the door to further instruction without being rude and disrespectful.

Learning to handle constructive criticism is an important part of being workforce ready. Constructive criticism helps you develop the soft skills like emotional intelligence, communication, creative thinking and self-development. The goal of constructive criticism is always to improve productivity and performance, so accepting this as part of your professional growth will benefit your career.

Post Student Services – Center for Academic Success

Being on the receiving end of constructive criticism and negative feedback is still hard. One way to ensure you can respond positively and learn from the criticism you receive is with help from the Center for Academic Success at Post University. The center helps with everything from tutoring to academic challenges for gifted students. All services at the Center are free of charge for Post University students, so reach out today to learn more about how you can respond positively to constructive criticism.