Sat, 5 December 2015
“When you are not attached to praise or criticism an interesting freedom is yours.” Kute Blackson
We all find ourselves subject to criticism - not least from ourselves, but also from others. And we don’t like it. It makes us feel horrible - hurt, rejected, guilty, fearful, let down, misunderstood, angry, humiliated, insecure, embarrassed or unappreciated.
What you can do about it? You can’t always prevent it or stop it - but you can handle it, by changing the way you feel about criticism and how you deal with it.
“Be an encourager. The world has plenty of critics already.”
Here’s 37 ways to deal with criticism. Read them or listen to episode 71 of the Changeability Podcast to hear us talking about 37 ways to deal with criticism and more.
- Listen to the criticism - Yes - really listen. It’s not about what are you hearing - but about what are they saying. Firstly, is it criticism? Secondly, is it justified - is it valid?
- Be aware of how you’re interpreting what you’re hearing when someone criticises you.
- Is it a misunderstanding or miscommunication?
- Don’t get defensive.
- Be objective - as if you’re a spectator, looking in on the situation as a neutral observer.
- Don’t make excuses.
- What’s the intention behind the criticism? What’s the motive? Is it to be helpful or hurtful? Or is it an opportunity to impose power or status? Is it to be rude or to benefit you?
- Is it for construction or destruction?
- If you’re not sure what’s meant or intended by the criticism, ask for clarification. Don’t try and escape as soon as possible but ask follow-up questions. It shows you’re interested in hearing what they have to say and will give you further insights into what is really being said, rather than what you think is being said.
- If you require further clarification or don’t necessarily agree but aren’t sure about it - ask for examples of the behaviour, work or activity being criticised - and seek clarity about what the desired outcome is.
- Take notice of the manner in which the criticism is being delivered, as this should affect your response. What is the tone behind the message? Is the person shouting, in which case you might be quicker to dismiss or challenge it? Is it a well thought through, measured and reasoned critique, which therefore deserves your measured, well thought through and reasoned response?
- Don’t be afraid or worried to challenge criticism where you think it’s unfair or unjustified. Not least to get to the real meaning behind it. One way of doing this is to speak it back to the person - saying what you think they’ve just said. This shows up inconsistencies in their argument, if they exist. Or make them explain it further.
- Give yourself breathing space. Take a moment to be calm and collected - or at least to collect your thoughts. Don’t jump straight in with a defence or get upset. If possible, take a few mindful moments - with a quick burst of non-judgemental mindfulness.
- When you find yourself responding to criticism by getting upset, uptight, hurt, angry etc. - ask yourself why you feel like this. Examine the underlying beliefs. Is it saying something about you? What are you afraid of - rejection, not being appreciated, not feeling good enough?
- Are you looking out for criticism? Are you a people pleaser? If so why? Is it because you fear you’re not enough or good enough for people to love you for whom you are rather than what you do for them?
- Are you expecting criticism? Are you waiting for it or dreading it? You know there’s some truth in it and hope that people don’t see it, but you think they might so you’re waiting for it. Is there a part of you that knows you haven't done your best with this work or behaved in your best manner? If so is it because you have unrealistic expectations of yourself or because deep down you know you’ve fallen a bit short.
- Know your strengths. List them. Acknowledge them. Believe in them and your abilities.
- Are you reacting badly because you have a lack of confidence in yourself or your ability to accomplish what needs to be done or to be liked and loved?
- Be confident and stand on your own two feet - so that when criticism comes you have the confidence to deal with it and graciously accept it or refute it with a good account of yourself and your efforts.
“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” Norman Vincent Peale
- Are you unhappy about some aspect of yourself? For example, your body image, your weight, your job, the way you talk, your relationship or lack of. What is it you feel vulnerable about yourself - because that’s when you’re likely to interpret comments as criticism. Even well intentioned comments that are just comments. The conversation of friends and relatives you take as implied criticism, like ‘when are you going to get married’ or ‘no man on the scene yet?’. But to them it’s a conversation filler. People say things without thinking of the consequence or intending to hurt but when we’re sensitive to the subject already we’re quick to assume criticism. Personal comments about the way we look, our hair, clothes or weight are perceived as criticism when we’re sensitive about them, even when it’s not the intention behind the comment. And if it is intended to be critical but you have confidence in these things you can brush them off.
- Smile or laugh. Even if you don’t feel like it, smiling a big wide grin will give you a moment and make you feel better. Even better if you laugh it off. That doesn’t mean to ignore it criticism where it’s valid, but to rise above it if it’s not, and deal with it if it’s important for you.
- Are you reacting to this criticism or seeing it as criticism because it’s pushing your buttons? We all have things that get us going - sometimes without us really even noticing or knowing why. These are the old wounds, often going back to childhood and associated with the people who know us best - our families. Sibling rivalry and interaction from years ago that linger well into adulthood but get hidden behind a veneer of maturity. Yet something happens and we’re right back to the feelings we had when we were 10. The way a parent or teacher talks down to us or treats us without respect, or the feeling we’d never be as good at something as our brother or sister. They all come back to haunt us when we relive the criticisms of years ago today.
“A child that lives with criticism learns to condemn.” Ronald Russell
- Get rid of your buttons - then they can’t be pushed. Identify them, acknowledge them, forgive them, visualise letting them go.
- Is the criticism saying more about the person saying it, than you? For example, are they trying to impose some level of control over you to make them feel more worthy, or give themselves status or importance? Is it their inability to praise that makes them so ready to criticise?
- Don’t get sucked into their negative energy. Visualise yourself with an aura, force-field or bubble around you - repelling their negative energy.
- You are responsible for how you react to criticism. Don’t give that power away. Think about it and take back your power.
- Is their criticism relevant - if not don’t worry about it?
- Is there something else behind the criticism? Is the criticism hiding the real communication and true meaning of what’s being said and you’re hearing as criticism. Look for the underlying message. It might be a call for your attention from a friend, partner, parent or child when they criticise you for always going out, or accuse you of preferring work to being at home or spending more time with your mates than them. Maybe what’s really being said here is I want you to notice me, I want you to spend more time with me, I want your love and approval.
- Don’t take criticism personally - unless it is personal. If it’s made in good faith, for constructive reasons and the best of intentions then it’s not about you as a person, but about what you’ve done or how you’re doing it. Don’t see it as a criticism of the whole of you and everything about you.
- If it’s personal, negative and unjust, or a form of bullying, one up-man-ship or the symptom of a power struggle - don’t give it your energy and focus. No dwelling on it or mulling it over but move on to more positive pursuits and use of your time, energy and resources. The best way to stop think about something is to think about something else.
- Look for the positives in the criticism. Is it an opportunity to improve your work or relationship, to learn something about yourself or grow in some way?
- Have you heard it before? If so there may be some truth in the criticism and it’s time to listen, take note and do something about it.
- Learn to value criticism and not just praise. Acknowledge the benefits criticism can bring - like making you a stronger, more able or better skilled person.
- Criticism consists only of words and an opinion at the end of the day. Yes it hurts but let be the end of it – once the words are said they’re gone. Life and conversation moves on and so can you.
- Ask if you’re putting other people's opinion of you above the one that really counts - your own!
- Think about how criticism can make you better and practice asking for it and dealing with it.
- Thank your critic and give credit where credit’s due. Giving positive helpful criticism that comes from a good place is hard. It takes skill and empathy to do it well. It’s something we often avoid doing, even in the workplace where it’s part of our job, because it can be uncomfortable, so acknowledging where it’s done well is a win win.
That’s 37 ways to deal with criticism. We’d love to hear any you’ve got any to add – leave a voice message, comment below or join our FB group.
Here’s a final thought about criticism; accept the truth – you’re not perfect.
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”
Direct download: CA071.mp3
-- posted at: 1:27pm UTC