Taking Criticism & Feedback

How to take criticism and feedback and make it positive

A five step process to handle criticism and feedback in professional work situations. Learn how to benefit your business and improve your people skills!

How to Take Criticism and Make it Positive

By Esme Filsinger

Published on Oct 12, 2018

We all need feedback but it is not always easy to take it without feeling attacked or criticised in a negative way. Learning how to navigate situations that involve receiving criticism is an essential skill that can not only improve our personal and professional stress levels, but actually be a key provider of insight and depth into how we can improve ourselves and our businesses. I am all for personal development skills so I did the research and found the best tips for not just coping but thriving on the feedback other people give. My latest youtube video takes us through this process or you can read on to find out that way instead!

1. Don’t get defensive

It can be super triggering when someone is giving their opinion on our work, especially if it’s unsolicited or delivered in a thoughtless or off-hand manner. The most important thing in the moment is to make sure you don’t react in a defensive manner. You don’t have to agree or like what the person is saying in order to manage a calm and neutral reaction. This will help us in this process of finding value in the situation! Thank them for their feedback and let them know that you’ll consider their input. Committing to exploring whether someone’s feedback is valid doesn’t obligate you to act if it turns out to be misguided!

2. Don’t respond immediately

This is not always possible, but taking some time to process someone’s words before delivering a response can be a critical part of the process when taking criticism. Having time to digest those words after you have recovered from your emotional response will give greater clarity. Sometimes giving space ensures that you don’t say anything that you’ll later regret. You cannot always undo the effects of calling a colleague a thoughtless nobhead!

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3. Respond to the criticism, not the tone

This seems simple but it’s not always intuitive; people do not always deliver messages in a way that’s attuned to our emotional needs. We often need to disregard the way in which the message was delivered to understand the real message. Creating distance between delivery and content can help us to extract the value from what we may perceive as malice or carelessness. Not everyone’s communication skills are as good as yours, my friend!

4. Write it down 

With the intention of coming back to it later, write down any feedback you receive and then pop it in a drawer until your emotional response has calmed down. Once you have paced up and down the corridor, smoked six cigarettes and downed a glass of wine or bashed your chakras into shape* then you should be ready to take a look with some fresh eyes!

5. Disregard destructive criticism

When you have retrieved your notes from the drawer, it’s time to sit down and analyse what the person was trying to communicate. Be critical and separate negative sentiments and fluff in order to work out exactly what the core message was. Even if there is only a tiny amount of value in the whole exchange, now is the time to dig it out! During this process, try to set aside personal feelings about the individual who delivered the message. Getting distracted by your feelings keeps us from our goal, which is to turn this into a positive learning experience! Once you have worked out what the person wanted to say, you now have an important nugget of information which you can use to critically evaluate your work or processes. Did it highlight something that could be improved? When was the last time you updated or assessed that area of your business/communication style/work output? 


This experience can contribute to our continual process of auditing our work and improving the way we approach things! If it turns out that the feedback was in fact not helpful at all then that serves as great validation that the part of our business in question is working well. Then you may simply tell them that they were a thoughtless nobhead and you don’t really have to feel guilty about it!

*NOT serving suggestions – Try fresh air and breathing exercises instead (no shade, i’m just trying to be responsible out here.)


I would love your feedback! Please leave a comment on my video on  YouTube

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