How to Take Criticism Without Stress

Lauren Krause
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Do you have trouble with stress management? As an administrative assistant, you most likely work in a fast-paced environment where you're responsible for answering phones, taking messages, managing schedules, and completing work given to you by those you support. Because you probably experience considerable stress at work, receiving criticism—well meant or not—on your work is not always easy. Use these stress management tips to help you remain calm the next time a coworker suggests that you use a different font when you're typing a document.

Stress at work and home is so common that there are stress management physicians to help people learn stress management techniques. In fact, according to Dr. Aditi Nerurkar, research indicates that between 60 and 80 percent of medical complaints are exacerbated or triggered by stress. Unfortunately, when you're overly stressed, even the smallest critique can feel like a personal attack.

When someone criticizes your work, listen carefully to determine whether it is constructive criticism or simple rudeness. Because most administrative assistants provide support for multiple people, it's common for criticism to come from a variety of sources. Keep in mind that it's normal for your boss or the other individuals you support to give you constructive criticism, and it's not done to hurt you, but instead to help you improve. If the comments are helpful, then try to learn from them instead of getting defensive; learning how to depersonalize the criticism will help you. For example, if your supervisor tells you that it would be easier for you to get your work completed and answer the phones if you set up your desk differently, remind yourself that your boss isn't criticizing you, but merely commenting on a situation or process. To distinguish between the two, stress management tips suggest that you calmly repeat to yourself, "It's a specific behavior that's the problem, not me as a person."

Remaining calm will help you respond to a coworker's critique. If you start to feel annoyed by criticism, take a few deep breaths and ask the person a few questions. Asking questions will help you clarify what your coworker is suggesting, and it will also help you determine the person's intent. The last thing you want to do is respond to the criticism with a brusque "okay," as this can give the impression that you just want to end the conversation. Instead, determine if the criticism is accurate, and if there is a problem, address the situation immediately. It doesn't matter who is at fault; you may need to either change your behavior or acknowledge that there is a misunderstanding. Alternatively, the other person may need to change his or her behavior.

Criticism doesn't have to be difficult to take. As long as you depersonalize the situation, remain calm, and address the problem, everything will be fine. If you're having a hard time, just remember that there are plenty of stress management tips you can follow. It's okay to try different techniques until you find one that works for you.


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