When I was a sophomore in high school, I received my first piece of constructive criticism by my mentor.
My high school journalism teacher read over my first article I had written as a member of the newspaper staff.
He said, “you need to write more concise. This is journalistic writing, not English class.”
I was heartbroken. I had read over and re-written this 250-word article numerous times, trying to find the perfect adjectives and integrate fancy vocabulary.
But that’s not what journalistic writing is. The foolproof formula for an article follows the guidelines S-V-O: sentence, verb, object.
As my teacher tried explaining this to me, I was clouded by my own judgement.
I was too emotionally attached to my first “real” article to see the obvious grammar issues that were in it. I felt that because I had spent so much time interviewing, sifting through quotes and writing that I deserved more credit than what was given.
But I was in the wrong.
Once my teacher realized my feelings had been hurt, he refrained from making any more comments. He allowed me to look over it again myself and try to fix the mistakes that he pointed out earlier, and let me edit other ones myself.
I looked over the article after hearing his input and fully realized why I was wrong. My sentences ran too long. I had used elaborate terms that didn’t need to be there. There were other minor grammar errors that could have also been easily fixed.
I eventually accepted his criticism and grew a thicker skin.
This lesson that I learned early on helped me not take criticism so personally.
But some students still struggle with this issue.
The problem with not being able to accept constructive criticism is that we avoid hearing about our weaknesses.
If we were able to handle criticism gracefully, then it would allow us to improve these faulty areas and allow us to grow as stronger individuals.
If I hadn’t listened to any of my teachers’ critiques, my grades would not be as high as they could have been. If I hadn’t listened to my trainer’s advice, I wouldn’t have proper form when I work out. And if I hadn’t listened to my mother’s advice, I probably would have made a lot more stupid mistakes than I already have.
It’s hard to take in, but it is possible to learn how to handle constructive criticism. A few tactics are as follows:
- Try to refrain from reacting emotionally. It’s innate to feel angry or hurt when someone you know tells you you’re doing something wrong. But reacting to advice won’t help either of you.
- Actually listen to feedback. There’s a difference between half listening and pretending to apply critiques to your work and actually understanding what you’re doing wrong to prevent future errors. I suggest doing the latter.
- Remember to say thank you. Taking in a lot of feedback is difficult, but remember it’s meant to help benefit you in the long run.
In order to improve as a person, we must be open to change that can positively impact our lives. This will make us not just smarter, but stronger as individuals.