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How do you respond when someone criticizes you? What if you think that criticism is unfair or inappropriate? What if you think the critic has a good point and it makes you feel really bad about yourself? This essay is about constructive ways for responding to criticism about how your style as a person of power or privilege may be hurting others in your teaching or advising. Along the way it addresses the broader problems of taking criticism in general and of cultural differences in interaction styles. The punchline is about trying to be who you are (no personality transplants) in a way that respects both yourself and others and helps make your environment feel inclusive for more marginalized people.
Many professors think that it is important for students to be able to take academic criticism as a normal part of learning to be an academic, but are nevertheless outraged at anyone expecting them to take criticism about the way they give criticism to others, if you follow my point. Many people view themselves as pro-feminist pro-minority pro-queer liberal social justice advocates and are deeply hurt and offended at being told that their personal style or comments are viewed by others as domineering or racist or sexist or homophobic or classist or patronizing or demeaning. Continue reading “about taking criticism”