TRG Talk Talent Management event

February 26, 2020 – Almost all of us face challenging questions everyday in both our personal and our professional lives. Many of these questions are enticing and can potentially be a catalyst for growth. Others, on the other hand, are confronting and full of negativity. How can you handle these negatively challenging questions in a professional context?

February’s TRG Talk on Talent Management welcomes a brand-new speaker with an impressive profile – Mr. Thijs Van Loon, who currently is the Managing Director of Young Explorers HCMC.

Thijs had an extensive experience working at both Google and Apple, the previous was as a solution expert, and the latter was as a mentor trainer.

“Professionally handling challenging questions” is also the topic of this month TRG Talk: Talent Management. In this TRG Talk, Thijs aims at enabling participants to resolve challenging questions, particularly criticisms, in the workplace with a step-by-step approach.

When criticisms challenge your ability

It is our human nature to be attracted to like-minded individuals. However, those who disagree and point out our weaknesses can potentially help us grow.

Criticisms arise due to many reasons, such as envy, frustration, or anger. For example, it could be due to someone believing we did not live up to their expectations.

According to Thijs, when we receive any kind of criticism, we typically respond in one of the following four ways:

  • We fight.
  • We justify.
  • We ignore.
  • We acknowledge.

A step-by-step approach to handle criticisms

When you are at the receiving end, it is undoubtedly vexing if the criticisms given are not only challenging but also blunt. Nevertheless, it is not wise to have our emotions blind our judgements and ruin our relationships.

To take a more proactive approach, instead of reactive, Thijs recommends one of his favourite methods to handle criticisms – “Doing martial arts with words.”

The “Doing martial arts with words” approach is a three-step process, which requires the criticism receivers to: 

Step 1: Understand what the other party means by clarifying any vagueness in the feedback or criticism.

Step 2: Disarm the other party by acknowledging something accurate in the criticism or acknowledging their feelings. Disarming allows you to establish a common ground for the next step.

Step 3: Negotiate possible opportunities to move forward through explaining your current situation, apologising if you are in the wrong, or compromising.

Thijs then leads our attendees to an open discussion where everyone gets to share their own experience. The conclusion from the discussion is that:

When you are on the receiving end:

  • Take a step back, relax, and think for a moment so your emotions will not run over.
  • Ask for more details from the giver, ask for more constructive feedback (e.g. what do you want me to change?)
  • Do not rush to respond to the criticism right away.
  • Be prepared if you expect criticisms will come your way.

When you are the one who gives out criticism in the form of feedback:

  • Be specific and be careful with topics that are sensitive, confidential, and personal
  • Be mindful of the time and place to give feedback.
  • Active listening is also an essential part of communication. When the other party speaks, be sure to listen to their comments.




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