Take Criticism Seriously But Not Personally


Official portrait of Secretary of State Hillar...I was lucky enough to see Hillary Clinton speak on Sunday. She banned the press and didn’t take questions. No, she didn’t talk about Benghazi. She told some stories about being the Secretary of State and shared her personal insights about the job.

I am not a sycophantic Hillary fan, but I like her. One great thing she said? She has learned to take criticism seriously but not personally.

I liked that. It was a funny message for HR professionals because we offer the same advice to our clients and customers but we internalize feedback and criticism in such personal, emotional ways. I have myriad experiences where I’ve had to go back to colleagues and friends — at work, in the blogging community — and say things like, “Just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean I don’t like or respect you.”

In fact, I’ve had to say that about 50 times in the past 24 hours to students, professors and HR colleagues who thought that I was too negative and too cynical in my post to HR students.

Very simply, I don’t understand why HR isn’t wrapped up into a larger business degree. I don’t know why it’s okay to spend $48,000 to earn a degree in a field where the starting salary is $32,000. I would love for our next generation of leaders to think bigger and broader about talent, human capital and HR. And I would love for people to defend a point-of-view about Human Resources instead of whining about my blog posts.

But whatever.  We had a great conference session on Saturday. I think the students left feeling inspired about a new model of Human Resources. And I’m glad Hillary Clinton said what she said about criticism. I hope everyone heard it because she is right. Don’t take it personally. Take it seriously.

When someone disagrees with you, be brave and bold. Think of the critique as an opportunity to validate your perspective. Think of it as a path towards greater truth. Take a different POV and understand that criticism is a way to “check in” with your values and my objectives.

When I am criticized, I ask: Am I right? Does the data confirm my beliefs? Is there kindness behind my truth?

Thinking about — and defending your beliefs — will beef up your critical thinking skills and inspire you to be a better person. That’s a pretty good challenge for HR students, don’t you think?

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