“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” — Frank Howard Clark
The year 2015 was a transformative year for me. 2015 was the year I moved to Los Angeles to intern at FOX Studios. This opportunity was the first internship I ever had that was in my field and with a major television studio. Each day I would walk onto the studio lot nervous to go in. I never knew what to expect. I knew that I was lucky to be there and that I wanted to make the most of my internship. I worked with some fantastic people at FOX. Everyone was invested in my development as an intern and did everything they could to help me along the way. Of all the interactions I had, there was one that will stick with me forever.
The first few days of my internship the head of my department, Nichole was out of town. I heard she was excited to meet me and had heard great things about my background. I was thrilled to meet her because I knew Nichole was well accomplished, influential and an HBCU alum. During the first Thursday of my internship, I finally got to meet her.
Before coming into office that day my supervisor told me to wear a suit and bring my A-game. She said that it was imperative that I left a strong first impression. That morning I wore my one good black suit, pressed my shirt and brought some of my business cards with the hopes of being memorable.
When I arrived at the studio, I walked into her office to introduce myself. The interaction started well. She introduced herself and reached to shake my hand. As she motioned her hand towards me, I stay in my seat shook her hand and sat back nervously. As we conversed, I rambled on about my aspirations, told her I wanted to meet Kim Kardashian and gave her one of my business cards. Unfortunately, I didn’t know of all the persistent mistakes I was making. Nichole was rather quiet yet stern. After my rambling, she politely told me about my behavior from our brief interaction.
Nichole expressed to me how I should never tell anyone at FOX Studios that I wanted to meet Kim Kardashian. She said how I was wrong for not standing up and shaking her hand. Nichole also stated how unprofessional and tacky my business cards were. Each correction she gave was professional and heartfelt. At first, as Nichole was giving me feedback I was embarrassed and disappointed with myself. Looking back on the situation everything she said was correct and tips I needed to hear.
I was rather unprofessional, my business cards were sort of tacky and I was very new to the professional world of television. That situation taught me how important it is to receive constructive criticism. The next time you receive constructive criticism from your supervisor or a peer, use these three points to help you handle the encounter with grace and professionalism.
1. Stop Your First Reaction
Whenever we are criticized for anything, we all have this innate inclination to be defensive. Most of us believe that we are doing the best we can with whatever the situation may be. When someone challenges our behaviors, ideas or actions, it’s hurtful, and we may desire to react. The mature thing to do is to remain calm. Try not to respond. Take a deep breath. Count to 10. Cry in the bathroom if you need to but whatever you do at that moment just relax. It’s immature to take the criticism personally or respond abrasively.
2.Listen for Understanding
Whenever someone is criticizing you listen with the intent to understand not to reply. Firstly, this helps you process whatever the person criticizing you is saying because it may be helpful. Secondly, listening to understand helps you not to go off because you are critically thinking about what is being said.
3. Ask Insightful Question
Question everything. Asking insightful questions is imperative for personal growth. Make sure that whoever is criticizing you has good intentions. If this person wants to help you, see you grow and develop they will have no problem answering your questions about their feedback. Repeat what they said in your questions and get clarity. For example, “I understand that you feel that you want me to engage more in class discussions, is that right?” These questions will one, show you want to grow and two, that you are actively listening.
If the person is too busy or unreachable, ask a friend or mentor for feedback of the situation. Life presents so many opportunities for us to grow and this very well may be one of them. With that said, Ask questions.
Constructive criticism can be very beneficial if you allow it to be. Following my interaction with Nichole, I reflected on the situation, conversed about it with a colleague and grew from her feedback. At that moment, of course, I was hurt, embarrassed and disappoint but I didn’t allow my emotions to weigh out my opportunity to learn. Accountability can hurt, but if given through love I promise it will help you more than hurt you. I hope the next time someone gives you good-intentioned criticism and feedback you take it like a champ.