Business Etiquette: How to Accept Criticism

Criticism is a fact of life and a powerful training tool when we understand how to put it to use. We will almost certainly receive criticism (constructive or otherwise) from a supervisor giving feedback and possibly from a client at some point in our professional career.  Add social media into the mix and criticism can be very public, making it even more important to have a strategy for handling the feedback we may receive from those we interact with. Here are five tips to prepare you to gracefully accept criticism

  • Rethink the word “criticism”.  Stay open to hearing a message that may be of value and use it as opportunity to improve. By taking the “feedback” as a professional courtesy, you instantly receive the opportunity to grow your skills, behavior and overall professional image.
  • Remain calm. Often our first instinct is to react defensively. Keep your emotions in check and, if necessary, remove yourself from the situation, allowing yourself to cool off and process the feedback.  Buy some time by saying, “That’s an interesting point; I’d like to think about this information and get back with you by this afternoon.” Another reason to stay level headed: If you fly off the handle when a supervisor gives you a critique, it sends a message that you are not prepared to handle pressure. On the other hand, if you accept difficult feedback with a calm and thoughtful demeanor, it shows that you can separate emotion from business – an essential skill for success in the workplace. 
  • Remember that you are in control of your response. Did you get a negative response to a blog post? Were you insulted by a colleague who gave unsolicited advice on one of your projects? Blasting back with a sharp retort may feel good for an instant, but the feeling won’t last, and the argument may escalate by an unprofessional out lash. You are in control of your comments, tweets and updates. Sometimes it’s better to walk away (by choosing not to engage) than to interact with an unprofessional fan or follower. If the comment is offensive or worse, don’t hesitate to remove it from your fan page and move on with your day.
  • Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Do you want a manager who listens to what you have to say and wants to correct the situation, or one who dismisses your concerns and responds with hostility? The manager who accepts a customer’s complaint, offers a way to improve the situation and even expresses appreciation for the input will reap benefits many times over.  Use this as an example for your own behavior.
  • Look for the lesson.  Even if you disagree with the critique, be open minded to a different way of thinking. You will gain insight to what others see, which may be very different from your own perspective.

One more tip: Consider thanking the person for his or her input.  Even when dealing with an angry customer or fired up boss, a calm and thoughtful response can diffuse the situation and turn a critic into a new ally. 


Diane Gottsman

Diane Gottsman is a national etiquette expert and modern manners professional, sought out industry leader, television personality, accomplished speaker, Huffington Post blogger, author, and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in executive leadership and etiquette training. Diane is routinely quoted in national and international media including The New York Times, The BBC, CNN, Bloomberg Business Week, Kiplinger, Huffington Post Canada, U.S. News and World Report, and Forbes. She is the resident etiquette expert for two popular morning talk shows, SA Living and Good Day Austin. She has been seen on The TODAY Show, HLN Headline News, WGN Chicago, and CBS Sunday Morning. Her clients range from university students to Fortune 500 companies and her workshops cover topics ranging from tattoos in the workplace to technology at the dinner table and the proper use of social media.


  1. Kathy Prudhome says

    Great advice ! Human nature does not allow us to think this way, you always want to defend your actions in any situation. Thinking outside the box and seeing the other person point of view will make YOU a better person.

  2. says

    Thank you for stopping by and sharing your insight. Being present and open-minded is half the battle, indeed! Wishing you a great rest of your week.
    ~ Diane

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