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How To Respond To Criticism

“What a stupid idea!” your colleague bursts out. “It will never work.”

How can you respond?

Say, “You are wrong,” and you escalate the conflict.

Say, “I am wrong,” and you betray yourself.

Your colleague must have not read my previous post about humility. Or if he did, he must have been the one who commented that it was a stupid article.

Here are a several ways to deal with criticism.

An Ounce of Prevention

The only way to win a fight with a colleague is not to have it. Beating him will get you, at best, a defeated resentful opponent.

Here are four general strategies that reduce conflicts. They don’t guarantee you will avoid them, but minimize their probability.

Should they happen, they increase your odds of resolving them constructively. They create a positive predisposition towards collaborative relationships.

If you face an arrogant attack, they will help expose its irrationality, not only to you, but also to others who might frown upon your critic’s strong-arm tactics. If you face constructive criticism, they will help you and your critic turn the fight into a dance.

These strategies are not “nice” in the sense that they allow anybody to state whatever opinion they want. They are “clarifying” in the sense they eliminate the fog of war that prevents rational discussion. They are rules of engagement similar to the ones of the scientific method, which focus on reason and evidence. They take hostility out of the equation, allowing for a logical consideration of the different points of view.