Handling Criticism

It’s not easy when you have invested time and effort in something not to take criticism to heart. This is true in every vocation, and in web development we are constantly presented with this challenge. At times (read all the time) I find myself getting defensive, or worse, trying to pass the blame, neither of which actually contribute to solving the issue. It might be as a result of a code review, a round of quality assurance testing or even during some good old fashioned office banter. Either way, it can be hard to take criticism on the chin.

Most of the time I think this is because we take it too personally and we let emotion into the equation (he says knowing full well there is nothing he can do about it). The thing is, when you start getting upset about something someone said about your work it has a spiraling detrimental  effect which is very difficult to snap out of. You might start with the old slopey shoulders and say stuff like “Are you sure it was my change that introduced that bug?”.  Then, you might end up putting more effort into proving it wasn’t you than actually diagnosing the problem at hand. What’s the point?

It’s never been my strong point, but, recently I have tried to be more assertive when handling criticism or suggestions. I can’t really help how I feel, but, I try to pause and reflect on the facts. For example, if a fellow developer has given me some feedback during a code review, first of all, I try to be grateful for the fact that they have taken time out of their day to review my code. When a tester finds a bug in something I have written I try to appreciate it and see it as a collaboration. They have given me an opportunity to fix something before the bug is deployed to a production environment where the stakes of the mistake are higher.

When it comes to banter, things are different. You really need to be careful not to take things too seriously, even when you think someone is having a snipe at you and disguising it as a joke. I think that most of the time if someone is willing to poke fun at you then they feel comfortable in your company and I would even stretch to say that they may even like you. So, with that in mind, try not to be too spontaneous when you react to criticism, take a moment to consider the facts and try to see it as an opportunity to build relationships and learn.


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