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.
As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.