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How not to take things personally in the workplace

Positively utilizing constructive criticism and not taking things personally in the workplace is a skill developed over time. Young professionals can be especially quick to get defensive and let the criticism bring them down. That being said, not taking criticism well can really affect your performance and how you’re viewed in the office, which is why it’s imperative to swallow your pride and learn from your mistakes. Criticism is meant to help you get better, not make you feel bad. Here are our top tips on how not to take things personally in the workplace.


5 steps for taking constructive criticism and running with it:


1. Freeze!

Wait to react at the first sign of criticism. Don’t do anything. Just look up and smile. You got this.


2. Keep in mind the value of feedback

Even if it’s coming from a peer or someone who you don’t trust fully, remember that you can learn a lot from criticism and feedback. Open your mind to the feedback because it likely will lead you to doing your job better.


how not to take things personally


3. Pay attention

Be an active listener and pay close attention to the criticism directed your way. Try to understand what your boss or peer is saying to the best of your ability. Think critically about what is driving them to come to you with this feedback and what you can do to improve. Give them your full attention, don’t interrupt and also keep in mind that for some it can be quite difficult to critique others so be respectful and open to what they are saying.


4. Thank the person offering feedback

Offer a sincere “thank you”. Be as genuine as you can muster, look your boss or colleague in the eye, and also explain why you are appreciative for the feedback.


5. Follow up with questions

To clarify criticisms it may be necessary to follow up and ask some further questions so that you can figure out how to improve. Do this with respect and humility – no attitude necessary. If the feedback was referring to a specific task or moment in the office, you could ask if it was an isolated incident or if you have a habit that should be changed. Try to follow up with questions related to understanding the issue better but also finding solutions.


how not to take things personally


Other things to keep in mind:

-It’s in everyone’s best interest, including your own, to become a better employee.
-Many professionals want to improve their work but would like more feedback, so take the criticism as an opportunity.
-Not taking criticism personally gets easier over time – as does the quality of your work.
-What you see as a minor detail might actually be a much bigger problem in the office. Realize that you may not know best when it comes to how your work affects the office.
-Remember that being held to high expectations can only make you a more competent professional.


Learn how not to take things personally in the workplace at an international internship! Apply now and boost your career!




Photo 1. based on Stressed?, by aaayyymm eeelectriik, CC-by-2.0

Photo 2. based on Criticism, by Celestine Chua, CC-by-2.0

Photo 3. based on _MG_1533, by Masa Israel Journey, CC-by-2.0

Photos and blog by Elizabeth Trovall

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The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!