Receiving criticism can be a difficult experience. As a law student and future lawyer, you will receive criticism on a regular basis–and it won’t always be presented in a positive way. One form of criticism you may receive happens in the classroom when the professor is not satisfied with a response you gave to a question. You also receive criticism in the form of feedback you get from judges after moot court or trial competitions, or, most commonly, in comments on graded assignments.
It is easy to react negatively when we receive criticism. Often, criticism can make us feel defensive–we may feel that we are under attack. Some people respond to criticism by shutting down emotionally–but it really is an opportunity for growth. The time spent in law school can be an opportunity to learn how to handle criticism in a productive way. If you approach it with the right attitude, you will grow even more as a law student and attorney. You will also find getting feedback less stressful.
Here are some tips for turning criticism into opportunities for positive growth:
Recognize that criticism is almost never personal. You may say, “Of course it’s personal! It’s directed towards me!” That’s true, but criticism is rarely about who you are as a person. Instead, criticism is usually related to your actions (or inactions), things that relate to your interactions or communications with others. Recognizing that criticism is not meant to be a personal attack is the first step in learning how to handle criticism.
Don’t immediately react–instead, listen. Resist the urge to react defensively when you first receive criticism. Instead, listen to what the other person is saying. When we immediately start thinking of our response to what someone else is saying, we quit listening. If you listen, you will identify more opportunities for growth.
Reframe criticism as something positive. If you make the conscious choice to reframe criticism as a tool for further improvement, you will take away some of its sting. Changing how you think about criticism may not be easy, but, if you reframe how you think about it every time you catch yourself having a negative response, you will be open to those opportunities for growth.
View criticism as a communication of the other person’s needs. When you receive criticism, it may be because what you have provided to the other person doesn’t entirely meet their requirements or needs. If you listen closely to criticism in those situations, you will be able to tailor your responses to the situation in a way that is most helpful to that other person.
Learning how to handle criticism in the right way helps you to not make the same mistakes twice. When you begin to view criticism as an opportunity for growth rather than a negative experience, you will change how others view you as well. You will gain a reputation for being a good listener (a critical skill in the legal profession), and your professors, supervisors, and bosses will come to rely on your positive responses when they give you feedback. Truly, learning how to handle criticism in one of the keys to success in law school–and in the legal profession!