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Law

Advice on taking criticism? I don't know what to say when my partners tell me I effed something up. I don't get defensive, but I don't want them to think my response is too cavalier, either... 🤔

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I usually will say, “Got it” or “Understood” followed by, I’ll do it that way in the future or I will keep that in mind. But the most important thing is actually making the change. I am in civil defense and I have an associate who always uses triggering words like suffered “the plaintiff suffered a lumbar spine injury.. “ I have told him not to use those words and to opt for more sterile language like sustained about 20 times. I reviewed a mediation brief last week and bam.. “ suffered”. The response is not as important as what you do after.

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Best way that has worked for me is to take it and own it. That means learning from it and demonstrating you’ve implemented a solution.

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Agree with the above. Great question. Some humility in accepting the note and — please — do not repeat. If your boss/superior is telling you, there is a reason. My son would occasionally complain when a baseball coach was — he felt — over-instructing him. My typical response was to tell him not to complain when the coach is directing you. Worry when he does not ... then he has given up.

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“Thank you for the notes. I’ll keep an eye out for that next time.”

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I get that mistakes shouldn’t happen again but in all reality, some minor ones probably will, and why is that soooooo bad. I get that the example above with the associate who has been repeatedly told not to use the word suffered but what about typos. Typos shouldn’t happen but they likely will again, it’s life. So how and when do you stop/ start stressing out for your own sanity

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I’m glad someone else finally said this. I find it very frustrating to have too much work and be constantly “on” for every billable hour with that stress hanging over while you struggle to juggle and meet all deadlines, then the only feedback is on a typo or egads! an actual mistake... it’s demoralizing. Realistically, did someone die ? Is your client or their case irreparably damaged ? Oh wait, it’s a 15 minute amendment... yeah...

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How do you take criticism when it feels like boss is trying so hard to find one and even faulting things that are not clearly errors?

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Thank you so much for these responses. This is very helpful!

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Ask for as much specificity as possible (like above) but I’d also suggest forming your own plan or steps for how to correct these things and communicate it. Ex: I’m going to calendar deadlines with 48 hr reminders to ensure I don’t miss anything, or I’ll build in time for an extra review of the pleadings to ensure I don’t miss any typos. This kind of work shows them you’re taking their feedback seriously and are making meaningful steps to improve. Most importantly, and this is not always easy- thank them for their remarks. If they walk away from the conversation with a good feeling, they’re more likely to cut you slack on prospective future criticism because “s/he has a good attitude.”

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What if it is criticism of your personality?

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I’m usually at the office by 6, I’m definitely always polite and kind to all humans, but especially clients, and I most definitely wear appropriate work attire (suits, not too short or tight dresses and skirts, I don’t even wear jeans on Fridays). By personality, I quite literally mean, the essence of me. The old “fit” card. But your comments have given me hope that I shouldn’t feel this way and that is very helpful.

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If the criticism is constructive I try to have a conversation about it and explain why I did something a certain way (unless I just goofed, in which I case I try to just own it). That way, the partner sees that I’m not taking the issue lightly and can give feedback more specific to the situation.

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If it’s legit criticism, I’ll say “thank you, I’ll be sure to do that.” If it’s something I should have already known better, I might say I’m sorry for the mistake

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Saying “Got it” in response to criticism is not sufficient in my view as a boss to constructive criticism. Tell me you understand why what happened before was a mistake and then how you are going to change it. Don’t just say the equivalent of “10-4;” I need to know you know why it is a mistake so it doesn’t happen again.

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