I’ve been wanting to talk about the issue of handling criticism for a while now. I get asked about it a lot by the law students I mentor and via instagram message by other young professionals who follow along with LegalLee Blonde.
Criticism is inevitable in any profession – you cannot please everyone – and part of the key to personal and professional growth is dealing with it in a healthy way. Today I wanted to share with you my thoughts on how to handle criticism.
Wondering why a “real talk” category post on handling criticism has photos me in a tutu? It’s actually for a very good reason…
These photos are from a blog post I did way back when I started blogging in 2015. I was really new to blogging when I shared these and so was getting maybe 50 page views a day here on LegalLee Blonde. Then one day my page views started escalating. I got 100 views, then 200, then 1000. I was really confused and checked analytics to see where these views were coming from. They were coming from a lil old website you may have heard of … GOMI. GOMI, or the longer “get-off-my-internets”, is a notoriously hateful internet blog where people go to criticize and hate on bloggers or other public people.
A now deleted GOMI thread shared one of these tutu photos with a link to the post talking about what a bratty airhead I must be. In the pages and pages of comment responses people said things like;
– she should quit her legal career because no one will ever hire her;
– she’s fat and poses like an absolute idiot;
– what a f**king moron; another blonde idiot thinking she’s a “blogger”
– who would ever wear that?! She has no sense of fashion
It hurt guys. (A lot). I cried ( … A lot). Let’s call this “career criticism 1”.
Flash forward to this year. I recently had a meeting with a very well respected, incredibly brilliant lawyer who is a mentor of mine. She had some real hard truths to share with me. She talked about the fact that I have now built up a good reputation as a smart, hard-working lawyer. I’ve had some substantial wins in my criminal cases and no longer need to worry about not being taken seriously. However, she shared with me some criticisms that other lawyers had shared with her about me; that I am not friendly/personable enough in Court and that I can come off as being too busy or dismissing opportunities. This was really hard to hear, but absolutely worth it. Let’s call this “career criticism 2”.
How I felt initially after both these critiques was the same; crappy. And le’s be honest, that’s the standard reaction to criticism. But, how I internalized them and decided to deal with them was entirely different. Criticism can be valid and helpful and make you better if it comes from the right people and you are open to the change. My more recent career criticism I took to the very end of this 7 step process below. The first though, the mean internet trolls? Yeah, that stops at step 1! Here’s my thought process on what to do when you’ve first had a piece of criticism:
Steps to Handling Criticism
First ask yourself; “do I value this person’s opinion?” If the answer is no; forget about it. I repeat, forget about it. Know who you are, know that you are wonderful, and if the critique is from someone you don’t respect or don’t value, there is zero point in wasting one iota of energy on it. (Ie. what I have done with my career criticism 1).
If you do value the person’s opinion, take a deep breath and actually listen to what they are saying. (Ie. what I am doing with my career criticism 2).
Don’t make any rash comments or rash decisions. Don’t be that person that yells at the criticism-giver. Think about it before you do anything one way or the other.
- Assess The Type of Criticism
After hearing (or reading) what the criticism is, spend some time thinking about whether this person is the right person to give criticism in that area. Just because you’ve passed step 1, and value this person’s opinion, they may not be appropriately placed to give criticism in this area. For example, you’re a young lawyer and the associate you directly report to gives you criticism about the last legal brief you wrote. This may be criticism you accept and move on top step 5. Or, you could be a young lawyer and your dentist aunt gives you a critique about how you are navigating your legal career. You may decide that while you do value this person’s opinion, they are not the right person to give criticism in this area. If that’s the case, like with step one, let it go.
If you decide the criticism comes from someone you value, in a position to give criticism in that area, discuss it with them. You’re brain panics when you’re being critiqued, so you may be unintentionally spinning or summarizing the exact criticism. Make sure you clarify what their criticism is so that you fully understand it.
Then, you reflect. Think about whether this is something you want to fix or change and if it is how you can do that. Talk to others you value if you feel comfortable doing so. Get their insight on the critique.
Give yourself some grace. If you’ve reached the point where you’ve decided the criticism is from someone you respect, in an area they should be critiquing in and that this is valid thing you want to change, be kind to yourself. Don’t berate yourself for having made the mistake or acted a certain way. Noone is perfect; and you are a huge step ahead of most people because you are open to critique and willing to improve. Be proud of yourself for that – that is a huge amount of personal and career growth.
7 steps to how I handle criticism. I hope this helps you in navigating the difficult world of criticism in your career, whatever it may be. It’s a tough process but it’s so worth to helping you grow.
Thanks for reading today’s Real Talk post. If you want more real talk; check out the “Real Talk” tab in my blog header. And back to fashion for a moment – I still love this outfit – bring on the tulle and polka dots any day!
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