How To Take Criticism

thecriticI’m going to break it to you now and tell you that you aren’t perfect. I know, it’s hard to hear, but it’s okay because no one expects you to be. People know you’re trying your best, and will mess up sometimes. But the best way to remind them that you indeed are trying your best is to learn to take criticism well.

Taking criticism overall means listening to what the other person has to say and seriously considering it before deciding whether you agree or not. You don’t have to agree completely, but consider the source. Is the person criticizing your work someone who knows the field? Is your friend criticizing you someone whose opinion you generally trust? Is it just another human who seems to care about the issue at hand, and should be treated with respect?

There are two main reactions to being criticized: getting defensive, and getting mopey. Both are terrible and you should do your best to avoid them, but both are understandable. Who hasn’t gotten defensive at being criticized? Your thoughts and actions are precious and special, and also probably reasonable! You want to protect them! Perhaps you start down the road of justification, explaining why you said what you said or did what you did, in hopes that the other person just didn’t understand what you were going for. Perhaps you accuse them of being ignorant, or illogical, or just mean. Yes, there are people who just like to be mean, or are seriously ignorant about things, but mainly if someone is taking the time to give you some constructive criticism it’s because they care. Listen, and really try to see if their criticism is meanspirited or if you’re just hurt that you’re getting called out.

The other reaction, which sometimes comes after getting defensive, is getting sad and mopey or mean to the point where the person criticizing you now feels that it’s their job to comfort you and tell you it’s not your fault. This may not be intentional, but in a way it’s a worse move than getting defensive, because now the blame is on the person who criticized you and hurt your feelings, instead of you for most likely doing something wrong in the first place. Symptoms of mopey-ness include: self pity, needless guilt, and endless apologizing.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t feel guilty and apologize, but that you don’t want those emotions to turn into the focus of the conversation. And the thing is, few people actually want you to feel bad about yourself when giving constructive criticism. They just want you to stop doing the one thing you were doing.

So what should you do? Well, if you see how you were wrong, you should apologize and vow to not make the same mistake moving forward. And then you should…not make the same mistake moving forward. It’s that easy! You don’t have to say anything else! Actually, you probably shouldn’t say anything else. Maybe you can ask how you can remedy the situation immediately, if you happened to offend someone, but otherwise just make the required changes and get on with your life.

Every once in a while you may receive criticism you honestly don’t agree with, even after considering the source and doing deep soul-searching about your own biases and opinions and such. Then, and only then, do you not have to apologize. You probably shouldn’t even respond, and if you do, it can be along the lines of “thank you for your input.”


What to Write on a Registry Note?

Do people still register in the store with these little scanners? [Via flickr user salvationmedia]

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

What should I write on the “note” that gets included on the packaging when buying a wedding gift off the registry? Do I then follow up with a card?


Wanting to Give the Appropriate Congratulations

Official Etiquette:

Miss Manners doesn’t believe in registries in the first place, so she doesn’t really have any advice about this.

Our Take:

Victoria: As a person with a wedding registry, what do people write on the registry packaging that they send you? And then do they follow up with a card?

Jaya: So far I’ve never had anyone follow up with a card

Victoria: Really? I always do.

Jaya: I personally find it unnecessary. They know who it’s from, they know you’re happy for them, why waste paper?

Victoria: OH! You know what, I bet a lot of people will bring them to the reception. You will have to give an update after the wedding.

Jaya: So some examples of what we’ve received:

Aunt and uncle wrote “Congratulations on this very special day! We love you! ”

Mom’s friend wrote “A toast to many wonderful years together. Cheers! And all best wishes!” (she got us some glasses and a cocktail shaker)

Matt’s great aunt said “Have a happy life together.” The period seemed ominous

Victoria: Hahah those are amazing.

Jaya: Part of what I like about the registry I used is they have a list of who got you what, and you can track if you’ve already sent a thank you note.

Victoria: That’s nice! Yeah, even if the registry does that I think its a good idea to make sure you put your name in a message somewhere just to make sure that the couple does know who its from.

Jaya: Do you have to send a thank you note for a card? Like, a card with no money in it?

Victoria: Nope, I mean, maybe if all they got you was a card but came from far away, you might still consider writing a note.I think it’s becoming more important as people get more spread out and have big weddings that people want to attend, to consider people’s “presence to be their present” and acknowledge it in the same way they do for a physical gift.