Hearing criticism about your work — whether it's the deck you put together for a presentation, how you ran a sales meeting or the way you interface with coworkers — is tough. It's also impossible to avoid — and that's not a bad thing.
"There is only one way to avoid criticism," wrote Aristotle, is to "do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing."
You are something. You are someone who is doing your best at work. Criticism is a sign that you're actively engaged in the process of trying and improving. Sure, you're thinking. But that doesn't make it sting any less. So how can you handle criticism with the grace of Princess Diana? Some tips from the pros.
Focus on the other person
Surprising, right? According to Deb Bright, head of executive coaching firm Bright Enterprises, which counts Disney, GE, Morgan Stanley, and Marriott among its clients, and author of the book The Truth Doesn't Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change, the first job of anyone receiving criticism is to make the person giving it feel comfortable.
"Think about it," Bright tells Fortune. "Most managers hate giving performance appraisals, because they dread how someone is going to react to anything negative. So they tend to rush through the discussion just to get it over with."
By shifting your focus off yourself and onto your boss, you redirect your attention away from your emotional response. It's an exciting kind of mental trick, to boot, in that it reminds you of your power in the situation.
"You are the one in control here," Bright says. "How you respond will determine how the discussion goes, and how much or little you get out of it."
"People often think they're listening when in fact they are anticipating their own response or explanation to the criticism," career coach Ashley Stahl writes on Forbes. Jot down some notes while your manager is talking — the only thing worse than hearing negative feedback is hearing it twice.
Note the difference between fact and opinion:
A fact is quantitative: You missed your sales goal by $20,000. An opinion is qualitative and often vague: You don't communicate well with your peers. As you listen, parse facts from opinions.
Don't take it personally
Opinion, in particular, can be a reflection of the person giving it. Often, what we see in another person is a reflection of something that we are afraid to see in ourselves. This can become a kind of circular realization — your manager is reacting to you based on them, and you're responding to your manager's reaction to you based on you — oy vey! The point is to realize that there is a complex matrix of factors contributing to how we read and are read by others. Understanding that can help you take any opinion-based feedback less personally. What you're hearing is not The Truth from On High — it's your manager's perspective. As Georgia O'Keefe said: "The critics are just talking about themselves."
Hear the value of the criticism
Keep an ear cocked for the feedback that is useful — which is, after all, what feedback is intended to be. "What you can learn in a performance appraisal are things you may need, not just right now, but later on," Bright says. If you've heard the same areas for improvement the past couple of years, chances are you've got a growth opportunity on your hands.
If you're unclear on any feedback, be sure to ask for clarifications, and do so in a positive and specific (rather than defensive) way. For example, "When you mentioned that my data tables were too busy, would it be better to separate the information into sub-tables or do I just need to adjust the presentation style, in terms of font type and size?" You can also ask for suggestions, like, "How can I do this better next time?"
Ask for and provide concrete action steps
Think about how you can address the feedback you've received with a practical fix or two. "For example, you might suggest starting to 'communicate better with your peers' by updating them in person every week instead of through an occasional email," Bright suggests. You can do this at the time of feedback, but this is also a meaningful way to follow-up on a meeting and demonstrate that you've heard the feedback and have an action plan for improvement.
Trust that the feedback is well-intentioned
Nine times out of ten, the feedback is coming from a place of good intention and a desire to help you improve and succeed in your work. If you can remember that, you can see the feedback less as critical and adversarial and can maintain your dignity and self-esteem, notes Stahl.
Say "thank you" at the end of the conversation
"Even if someone is harsh and rude, thank them," writes Leo Babuta at zen habits. "They might have been having a bad day, or maybe they're just a negative person in general. But even so, your attitude of gratitude will probably catch them off-guard." Taking the high road and being the bigger person can win critics over. It's also a way of calming the ego and reminding yourself to be humble.
"No one goes through a whole career hearing only great feedback," Bright says. "In fact, if you haven't heard any constructive criticism lately, it means you probably aren't learning anything."
Roosevelt had some thoughts on this: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because this is no effort without error and shortcoming…"
Which all seems like a rather long-winded way of saying: If at first, you don't succeed, try, try again. That's when the magic happens.
When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.
Frugal gifting often gets a bad reputation. However, this shopping method does not make you cheap — it makes you practical. Frugal gifts often avoid waste and overspending and can be just as meaningful (if not more so) as any other present.
With the National Retail Federation predicting each consumer this holiday season to spend upwards of $1,000 on holiday gifts amidst an economic recession —this year might be the perfect time to reconsider your spending budget. We've formulated the ultimate list of frugal gift-giving ideas to get you started.