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How to handle criticism at work

By Atip Muangsuwan

“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.” Said Aristotle.

One of my executive clients showed up in our coaching session with a coaching topic: “How to handle criticism at work.” His problem was… he had received some criticisms from his colleagues. And he was not very happy about them because he believed some of them were not correct.

So, we began our coaching session by exploring his story about the criticisms. I asked him about the importance of achieving the session goal.

He said, “Some of the criticisms had demotivated and disempowered me.”

So, I asked him, “Is there any good in criticisms?”

He replied, “Yes, if they’re the constructive ones.”

I reflected to him, “So, there are 2 types of criticisms then. The constructive and destructive criticisms, right?”

He replied, “Yes, that’s right. And the type that I’ve got the problem with is the destructive type.”

I asked him, “May I share something with you?”

He replied, “Yes, of course.”

Then, I shared with him, my insight of the “Think-Feel-Act” cycle.

After sharing that, I asked him, “What comes up for you after you hear me sharing that cycle?”

He said, “I can choose how I feel at the moment that I choose what I think. If I choose to think the positive thoughts, I will feel good, feel happy. In contrast, if I choose to think the negative thoughts, I will feel bad, feel unhappy. So, how I feel depending on what I think.”

Then, we continued our coaching conversation around this topic some more.

At the end of our session, I asked my client to summarize his key insights from our coaching conversation.

He shared his key insights as follows:

  1. For the constructive type of criticisms, he would take them in for his personal improvement and development.
  2. When receiving the destructive type of criticisms, he would let go the negative thoughts and replace them with the positive ones.
  3. If he thinks positive thoughts, he will definitely feel positive feelings and act positive actions.

My own insight from this coaching session is that… “No matter what happens to you, you have a freedom to think, feel, act and produce the results you desire.”