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Rebuff unfair criticism

Defend yourself without sounding defensive

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in Office Management

Criticism is hard enough to hear when you deserve it. But when you endure scalding feedback you know is unwarranted, you must speak up without sounding defensive. Here’s how:

Criticize yourself—on the right grounds. Respond to inaccurate criticism by substituting accurate criticism. That redirects the focus to relevant issues, while saving you from picking a fight.

Say your boss thinks you drew the wrong conclusion from faulty data, when in fact you used the right data but didn’t clearly state the time frame for your projections. You’re convinced your conclusion is valid. So you say, “My timing was off. I’m disappointed in myself for not making it clear that I was presenting a long-range conclusion.”

A bit of self-flagellation shows that you’re able to appraise your actions objectively. By initiating your own criticism, you get rid of fuzzy or misguided ideas.

Suggest a solution. If you’re blamed for someone else’s mistakes, don’t point fingers. Instead, propose ways you can take charge and solve the problem.

Example: The CEO drops by to criticize you for your unit’s soaring expenses. (In truth, your boss wastes oodles of money.) Ask the CEO, “As much as I’d love to enact cost-saving steps, I don’t have that authority. Will you give me that authority by letting me chair a committee to cut expenses over the next year?”

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