P is for Personal

P is for Personal.

I just read a quote in a magazine from Hillary Clinton. She says, “It’s very important to take criticism seriously but not personally.” I admire the way she acknowledges criticism instead of being too good for it. We’ve all been on the receiving end of criticism and it can be tough not to take personally.

Criticism is the ugly cousin of feedback. The difference is in its delivery. Would you rather receive criticism or feedback? We tend to shut down when we get criticism but are more open to internalizing feedback. Understanding feedback involves taking that nugget of information and trying it on for size, viewing it with a couple of different lenses and holding it to the light for honest evaluation. Is it worth keeping?

I vividly remember being on a sales trip and the sales guy I was traveling with said to me, “I’m tired of listening to you. You start every other sentence with “When I….”,”  I was stunned. We were in Thailand, halfway across the world. I barely knew this guy and he boldly cut into me. He was dead right though. I was starting conversation this way because I was searching for common ground. I didn’t realize my approach was redundant and coming off as arrogant. He left to use the bathroom and I had serious thoughts of hailing a cab and returning to the hotel. But we were in Thailand and that wouldn’t have been a safe choice at the time. So I stayed and had to face the truth. I’ve never forgotten it and am grateful he told me.

Becoming a parent has opened me to all sorts of criticism, some verbal and some implied. It’d be easy to take it all personally and most of it I do. Yesterday I was told, “Mom, your hair looks bad. You need a hair cut.”. Critical, yes, but feedback worth taking. I booked a hair appointment for next Tuesday. Thanks for the feedback son!