Critical comments can enhance your personality, so seek feedback proactively.

Let me ask you this — do you know what you are weak in? It does not matter what stage of life you are in or what you do, everyone has their weaknesses. What is important is knowing what they are and finding ways of overcoming them. Understanding your weakness is the first step towards becoming better.

Ashish (name changed), an MBA student at a leading university, was brilliant at academics but was not able to secure the job he wanted. He was shortlisted by many companies, but none gave him a job offer. Finally, out of frustration he asked his tenth interviewer what the problem was. The interviewer said that while Ashish’s achievements were excellent, he could not clearly articulate his thoughts during the interview. The interviewer had trouble understanding him. This came as a revelation to Ashish. He sought the help of a friend who had succeeded in a number of interviews and asked him for honest feedback. If Ashish had received this feedback a few years earlier, he could have worked on it and improved. So why did this not happen?

There are two reasons: First, most people do not react well to negative feedback. The moment they hear anything negative, they immediately become defensive and start giving excuses for their performance. Some even become angry and start accusing the person giving the feedback for their faults! The end result is that the feedback is not accepted and the relationship between the one who gives feedback and one who receives it is spoilt.

This leads us to the second reason. The people who can give constructive feedback know this and hence typically do not bother to give any feedback. They get their work done and move on. Therefore people like Ashish continue to think they are really good until reality shows them otherwise at some point in the future.

Invite criticism

Think of a situation when somebody gave you negative feedback. What did you do? How did you react? If your first thought was to defend your behaviour, then you are not learning anything. So what should you do?

First, seek feedback proactively. Do not wait for someone to come and tell you what you are weak in.

Find people whom you respect — it may be your teacher, a senior in your school/college or even a colleague at work — and ask her, what areas can you improve in? What am I doing now which I can do even better? You will be surprised to hear some of their suggestions. Do not react, but ask clarifying questions: “So what do you think I could have done instead?”.

Even if you think 90 per cent of their criticism is misplaced, the 10 per cent that is true will help you identify the areas that you could improve.

Positive feedback is something we all like to hear. And of course you learn something from that too.

However, it is nothing compared to what you can learn from negative feedback. So the next time someone criticises you, resist the urge to defend yourself. Instead, thank that person.

The writer is a director at Thinking Palm. Email: vikram@thinkingpalm.com