In earlier lessons, we presented an array of tools and models to facilitate the process of conducting oneself assertively & confidently in a conflict situation. In this lesson, we focus on the art of handling criticism in a professional manner, and with grace. We can’t always control what other people say to us, or how they choose to say it. But we can definitely control how we internalize it, respond to it and more importantly, learn from it.
‘Seeking Specificity’ is a winning tactic when faced with Receiving Feedback or Handling Criticism, Outbursts and Being Labelled Wrongly. Take the lesson to see why.
This lesson is in video format.
We recognise that some participants prefer reading to listening. If you are one of them, then you can access a transcript of the lesson by clicking on the View Transcript button below the video.
Uday (Standing with his arms crossed, eyes blazing with anger, his voice loud enough to be heard halfway across the floor): Deepika, you work like an absolute idiot. How the hell did you send the MIS out to our CEO with so many mistakes in them? How do you make such silly mistakes?
I got pulled up by my CEO at the Department Heads’ Meeting., … in front of everyone. I was humiliated because of you (stresses on ‘humiliated’ and pauses for two seconds after saying that word before continuing. Stresses on ‘you’. Points finger at Deepika).
Deepika: (Deepika finds herself sitting a little more upright, her fingers clenching, her breathing getting shallow and her face beginning to contort in fear as her brain detects a threat to her well-being as a result of her boss yelling at her. All this happens within a second. She responds immediately… Speaks in an agitated voice): What? Wh…wha…wh…what happened? I…I.”
Uday (interrupting her and continuing with his tirade): I got yelled at during the Department Heads’ Meeting. By my CEO (His voice trembles slightly as he says the next line and he turns his head away from Deepika as he speaks – indicating that he feels deeply hurt). It was so humiliating. (Pauses for one second then turns back to look at Deepika, points his finger at her and speaks angrily, but his eyes seem to have tiny bits of tears). And all because of you.
Uday (continuing to speak angrily): Speak up. Why are you staring at me? What’s your excuse for the errors this time? Go on, give me some cock-and-bull like you always do about why you make mistakes. Like how stressful work is, or some other equally nonsensical rubbish? Errors in an MIS sent to the CEO… Boy, you are dumb!
Deepika (in a calm tone of voice. Her voice is low – not high pitched – as she speaks, her pace of speech is measured – not fast – and she sounds genuine. She is making eye contact with Uday and her posture is upright. She is NOT leaning against the desk NOR against the back of her chair. Her hands are on the table still): “Uday, I hear you (pause for 1 second) when you say that you got yelled at the Department Heads’ meeting because of some errors in the MIS. If that is the case, I would like to apologise. Your anger is justified.”
The empathy shown by Deepika’s causes Uday to relax visibly. He sits down. He is still angry, but considerably less.
Uday (still angry; dismisses what she has just said with a wave of his arm as he speaks the next two lines. He is angry, but he has relaxed visibly. He is speaking as he sits. There is a noticeable change in the volume of his speech, but he is still angry): And what good will your apology do? I got yelled at, and I fear that my promotion is at stake now. What good will your stupid apology do now?
Deepika (in a calm tone of voice. Her voice is low – not high–pitched – as she speaks, and she sounds genuine): Uday, you are angry, and understandably so.
One second gap before Uday responds.
Uday (Angry, but not as much as earlier): Arrey, what difference will your understanding do now? I was yelled at during the course of the department heads’ meeting. And that too by the CEO.
Deepika (calm voice, sitting upright, not leaning against the chair nor against the table. She is making eye contact with Uday. Her voice is low – not high–pitched – as she speaks, and she sounds genuine): Uday, any mistake made by me that got you into trouble is completely unacceptable. I want my work standards to be of a higher quality. What will help, is if you could tell me what exactly were the errors in the MIS that were identified during the Department Heads’ meeting.
Uday (sounding even less angry now. He leans back in his chair): The sales figures for last month were not correct.
Deepika (smiling slightly now. She turns her laptop towards Uday – in a deliberate motion, not fast – and points out something in an Excel Sheet to him. Still speaking in a low pitch and a measured pace of speech): You mean the figures for August, right?
Uday: That’s right.
Deepika shows Ravi why she had added those figures for August. She is shown talking to Uday (but no dialogues), who is seen staring expressionless at the screen. This is seen going on for four to five seconds. At the end of the conversation, he says:
Uday (flat voice): Then why did you not remind me about this before I left for the meeting?
Deepika (Still speaking in a low pitch and a measured pace of speech): I did try reaching you twice, but you did not respond to my calls. So, I had dropped you a text message. Though I guess that I should have tried calling you again.
Uday (does not make direct eye contact with her, only a brief glance towards her once in-between the sentence as he speaks): Yes. Next time, make sure you remind me about matters like this. (looks at her for one second and then turns away and then back at her) And,
I am sorry that I yelled at you. It was not your fault.
Deepika (leans back in her chair as she speaks. Smiling now): Don’t worry about what you said. And I will definitely be more diligent about ensuring that you receive my communication in the future.