Coping with Criticism

I had a very interesting interaction a few days ago. A green crew member, keen to get into the yachting industry, asked for my advice. After giving the budding newbie some information and a couple of leads to follow he proceeded to ask if I could give his CV a look over.

Only happy to help, I sent his CV back with my corrections and editing suggestions.  

Well; either the red font colour was visually offensive or he had woken up on the wrong side of the hammock because his response to my email was scathing.


Why is it that some people can take constructive feedback while others feel like they’re being attacked?


A social study done in 2012 determined that most professionals don’t respond well to feedback because they feel it is “unspecific and unactionable” criticism that comes from a senior who has little to no engagement with them. So a graphic designer, for example, might reject “I don’t like that logo” if it’s coming from a client who gave them a vague brief to begin with. People are also, often irritated by others who will find fault in something but offer no alternative.


The yachting industry is a little different. Crews live and work in close proximity. Within a few days your Captain or HoD will be quite familiar with your routine, work ethic and style. So when they approach you they know what they’re talking about.


Learning to deal with constructive criticism starts at taking the stigma out of the word “criticism.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term as, “The expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes.” However other definitions mentioned include, “The analysis and judgement of the merits and faults of work.”


Often criticism is met with resistance because the assumption is that all your superior is going to say will be negative. This simply is not true.


Criticism, especially in the workplace, concerns itself with the productivity of the team. Your Captain is merely trying to get you to work better and smarter for the success of the yacht. They will not and should not make personal comments unless it pertains to and affects the dynamic of the team. What so many of us do is take criticism to heart because we wrap our ego’s up in our work. The two need to be separate because the yachting industry runs on  teamwork. So when your Captain or HoD calls you aside to give you feedback, consider how the advice will help you better contribute to the success of the team as opposed to being quick to defend yourself obnoxiously.


Ever heard the line ‘We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak’ ? Listen to what your superior says. Put yourself in your their shoes. Their concern is the success of the yacht and so should yours. Once you remind yourself of the collective goal of the vessel you will happily accept any advice you’re given.You might even start asking your Captain and HoD for regular assessments because you’ll appreciate that you can always do better.


Don’t make excuses. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to help a person who refuses to see their own faults. If you insist on blaming everything and everyone else for things you should be holding yourself accountable for, you will never change. Own your mistakes and bad decisions. It’s a sign of maturity, humility and self awareness.


Receiving criticism isn’t the end of the world. Your Captain could’ve easily fired you but instead decided to reach out. This means they see your potential, they’re giving you a second chance and you shouldn’t let your ego squander that. Your superior can teach you a lot. If they’re giving you constructive criticism; thank them (even if you don’t agree with all of it), learn from it and take it in your stride. It’ll make you a better crew member in the long run.