Sat, 28 November 2015
If you don’t want to be criticised - don’t do anything .Although you’ll probably then be criticised for not doing anything, or for doing nothing - if that’s actually possible.
The meaning behind it is clear - the more you do the more people have to criticise you about. the more you open yourself up to judgement.
We’ve all met people who always seem to be worried about what other people think about them. So much so it’s the determining factor in deciding if they do or don’t do something.
But let’s not let such thinking keep us living small lives and stop us getting out there, making an impact or doing what we want. Because the truth is that whatever you do you’re likely to be criticised.
Not least because we all do it. We criticise ourselves and and we criticise others - even if it’s only in the privacy of our own minds. But it’s actually a lot more out there than that if we’re honest.
Over the last few weeks we’ve been talking about feelings and being criticised brings up all sorts of feelings in us, so we thought it would be good to think about criticism and why we don’t like it. Starting with what it is, when and how we experience and ending with why we don’t like it.
What is criticism?
There’s many ways to describe criticism and they involve the following elements and concepts:
The modern word of criticism comes from the 14th century French expression critique and has roots in Latin ("criticus" - a judger, decider, or critic), and, even earlier, in classical Greek where "kritos" means judge, and "kritikos" means able to make judgements. this conveys the notion of the critic owning a sense of discernment - which isn’t often the first thing we think about when we’re being criticised.
The Oxford Dictionary carries 3 definitions of criticism
We’re talking predominantly about the first definition here.
When do we experience criticism?
We all experience criticism, at least in the sense of feedback, by virtue of growing up. It’s practically impossible to grow up and not be subject to criticism of some sort - and there are key sources of it.
For most of us it begins, and keeps going, in the family. Staring with our parents and our siblings and maybe extended family too like grandparents, uncles and aunties and cousins.
Then we go to school and it really kicks in big time and carries on into college and university - hopefully in a constructive feedback variety,even if it doesn’t always feel like that.
This continues into the workplace - only now it’s called 1:1s and performance reviews or even team meetings. It also happens if you work for yourself or are involved in a creative enterprise.
We’re not immune from criticism from our friends either. In fact the closer or more intense the relationship the more likely we are to experience criticism.
Which leads us to another potential source of criticism - our nearest and dearest - our husbands, wives or partners.
If you have children you will at some point endure their criticism - especially during those teenage years they’re trying to break free, find themselves and put their own stamp on the world, and you get criticised for much of what you do and stand for.
Do we ever welcome criticism?
There are occasions when we welcome criticism. We actively seek out people’s opinions on something, with the expectation they will be critical, by critiquing something we’re working on because we want to improve it or get buy-in.
Or we want to choose between alternatives and look for the discernment of others (like the original definition from ancient Greece) where the criticism is to determine a preference.
Or we know there’s something wrong with a project or creation and want honest guidance or feedback to help us improve it or get a different perspective on it.
When learning a new skill, criticism can be the mechanism to teach us where or how we can improve.
The way it’s delivered determines whether it’s seen as criticism or teaching or guidance. And not just how it’s delivered but how we hear it (more of that next week).
Whilst there may be times when we welcome or seek criticism, although we might not call it that, for most of us most of the time we see criticism as an unwelcome fact of life.
Criticism and why we don't like it
We don’t deny it may be good for us, that we can learn from it and become better at something or improve some aspect of ourselves - but we don’t like criticism. Why is that?
Because we don’t like the way it makes us feel. Isn’t that at the root of it?
In fact we don’t like the way that being criticised makes us feel so much that we almost fear being criticised.
We don’t like criticism because when someone criticises us:
If you have a high level or strong sense of self-esteem you might still feel these things we’ve talked about today - hurt, humiliated, outraged, rejected, guilty, uncomfortable, and also unappreciated - but it will be short-lived and you’ll bounce back quicker. You’ll have more resilience and your sense of worth isn’t dependent on what others think of you so much. You can’t avoid criticism but you can deal with it better - whether it’s justified or not.
But there are things we can do to help ourselves change the way we deal with criticism and that’s what we’’’ going to talk about next week in episode 71. So if you have any ideas or ways you do this we’d love to hear them.
Episode 70 of the Changeability Podcast
Listen to episode 70 of the Changeability Podcast to hear us talking about criticism and why we don’t like it.
We’d like to hear what you think
We’ve been thinking about what we might do with the podcast next year. There’s two things we’d love your feedback on:
Please let us know - you can get in touch with us by:
Thank you for listening and reading - we look forward to hearing from you.
Sat, 21 November 2015
We are emotional beings with feelings, and together with our thoughts (which are intricately linked to our emotions and feelings) is what make us us. But our own feelings don’t exist in isolation. We are after all social beings and exist in groups, communities, nations, continents and the world.
Our feelings and behaviour affect other people’s feelings and behaviour and other people’s affect us - in a positive or negative way. And the way we deal with the feelings of others can have a positive or negative impact on them or us.
You only have to look at the news to recognise that as a human race we’re not always very good at dealing with the feelings of others. We see examples of religious intolerance, and social and political inequalities around the world and close to home. Our feelings do not exist in isolation and we are part of a larger community (whether we want to be or not).
The more aware you become of your own feelings, the more you will find yourself able to tune in to the feelings of others. Exercising your own feeling muscle enables you to understand and empathise with others better.
Empathy is a key concept here. It’s the idea of experiencing something alongside someone - putting yourself in their shoes. It differs from sympathy, which is more about feeling sorry for someone.
Empathy is linked to the idea of emotional intelligence. This is the skill of managing our own emotions and being able to recognise and deal effectively with the emotions of others and handle our relationships with empathy.
Empathy is a skill, and one of the indicators for happiness, we talked about previously.
But how do we get it? It’s a social skill we learn and pick up as we’re growing up, but some people more so than others.
You might say emotional intelligence and empathy can help us become better, more effective and successful people, and better for the communities in which we operate.
Paying attention to the feeling of others is a good place to start.
A question for you
How often do you ask yourself in a particular situation, where you are talking with a friend, colleague, or family member:
“How does anyone else feel right now?”
And perhaps a more interesting question is:
“How might the way they are feeling be affecting the way they are behaving?”
Last week we looked at setting feeling goals and suggested ways to do it, including keeping a diary of your feelings and how you behave when having these feelings.
This increased awareness of your own feelings and associated behaviours gives enables more insights into the behaviour of other people.
An important distinction
Notably the distinction between the person and their behaviour and the role feelings plays in the the relationship between the two. It’s helpful when dealing with people’s feelings, to separate the person - and their inner feelings - from the person’s behaviour - which is how they are acting or what they have said.
As human beings we have a tendency to conflate, or combine the person and their behaviour into one.
If a person is behaving angrily, on some level (whether we would say it consciously or not) they are an angry person. We associate the person with their behaviour.
Now as we know from ourselves, this is not the case. You might have just had a very distressing meeting with someone which left you feeling very angry, from which you bounce straight into another conversation where you’re perceived as aggressive, defensive or angry. If you assume the person and their behaviour are one and the same thing, you might see them as behaving unreasonably towards you and react accordingly.
But if, when someone is behaving very angrily, you can practise separating their behaviour from the person inside, you can respond to how they are behaving rather than reacting to them as a person.
This is of course easier said than done! There’s a temptation, as we discussed in ‘dealing with negative thoughts’, that we ‘mind read’ what we think the person is feeling from their behaviour.
Here’s a little exercise you can do:
Over the next couple of days keep a note of how other people demonstrate their feelings.
Dealing with unfamiliar feelings
It’s harder to deal with other people’s feelings when they’re feelings we ourselves are less familiar with. This in turn affects how you respond to them.
But how do you determine which feelings you’re less familiar with? You draw up a feelings map.
The feelings map
Draw up a list of your feelings under three categories: physical, emotional and state of mind:
Then plot these onto your feelings map.
Draw 4 concentric circles (circles within circles).
On the smallest circle, write in the word ‘often’; on the next circle up, write in the word ‘sometimes’; the next one up again, write ‘rarely’ and the final circle write ‘never’. Now divide those circles in three (like a third of a cake slice each) and on the outside of the cake slices (thirds) write the words: Physical feelings, emotions and states of mind.
Now map your physical, emotional and state of mind feelings onto that feelings map. So if you feel you ‘never’ express the emotion of sadness, then under the emotion segment of your feelings map, write ‘sadness’ in your ‘never’ concentric circle.
(See Feelings Map)
This gives you a map of your feelings, divided into physical feelings, emotions and states of mind and how often you feel them.
Now you’re able to look at your feelings map and see at a glance which feelings you feel least often and armed with that knowledge ask yourself:
“Which feelings do I feel least often and how do I tend to respond when others are expressing those same feelings?”
Love and anger
For example you might find you don’t express feelings of love very often and therefore tend to ignore that emotion not only in yourself but also when others are expressing that emotion. Now you’ve recognised those feelings of how you deal with love within yourself, you can develop a strategy for dealing with it in other people. So you might decide your strategy will be to say something very positive about that feeling and to explore with the other person how they are feeling.
“Wow, that’s wonderful. Tell me more about it?” In effect you are exploring the feeling in others.
Where as before you were judging them by your own standards of how you would behave, you are now sort of stepping into their shoes.
If you find anger difficult to tune in to and express yourself, your strategy for dealing with angry behaviour in others could be to focus on separating their behaviour (anger) from who they are (the person) and practice assertively standing your own ground.
It’s worth saying that none of this is an excuse for bad behaviour on anyone’s part and we’re certainly not suggesting you should put up with unacceptable behaviour or when people are riding roughshod over your feelings.
We’ve talked about dealing with the feelings of others on a one to one basis. What about group feelings? Human beings are after all group or pack animals. We’re social beings and are affected and influenced by those around us - particularly in group settings.
It’s easy to get caught up in the wave of what’s going on, unless we’re clear about what we feel. You only need to go to a football match or pop concert, to see this in action – generally in an enjoyable way where we take pleasure in the camaraderie of our fellow supporters or fans. But of course this same process can also be used towards less innocent ends, like mass rallies - where people can be influenced towards a more dangerous end.
Group feelings are also present in the smallest groups, in our own home within our own families or in the offices and places where we work, and influence how we feel and act as individuals.
It can be helpful to think about the way group feelings can affect you and ask yourself:
By paying attention to the feelings of others and by being aware of how we deal with our own feelings we can ‘deal with feelings’ more successfully.
The Changeability Podcast Episode 69
Hear us talk about all of this, including how often we think we’re aware of other people’s feelings (we have different views on this) and whether we think animals have feelings (of course they do but are they really ours?) and much more in episode 69 of the Changeability Podcast.
Sat, 14 November 2015
For many of us, our behaviours are often influenced by our childhood and underpinning those behaviours can often be a feeling of needing to be loved. The manifestation of that particular ‘feeling’ may well take the form of always striving to achieve – and by being in perpetual ‘doing’ mode - continually trying to prove yourself worthy through what you do. Something I’m sure many of us can recognise in ourselves even if we don’t always realise or acknowledge the cause.
Recognising our feelings is perhaps the first stage in a three-fold process of dealing with feelings. How we deal with those feelings successfully is then second part and if we can do that whilst being mindful of the third step – the feelings of others (as well as ourselves) then we are well on the way to feeling good.
The process of undoing years of engrained thinking patterns and the way we feel about ourselves, our feeling patterns, is hard, with no ‘quick fixes’ but is a path worth travelling.
And one way we might assist this process is to go about setting feelings goals – goals about how we want to feel in our lives.
Why set feelings goals?
We’re probably all aware of the concept of engrained thinking but we might not always think about engrained feelings.
Feelings often bypass the rational mind – and we just find ourselves reacting to them – often in an habitual way –perhaps because feelings tap a more primitive part of the brain.
Setting goals around how we feel then, is a practical way of putting into practice what we’ve talked about in our last two blog posts and podcasts:
Setting feelings goals
So the first thing about setting feeling goals echoes the earlier comment about how ‘it’s hard to undo years of engrained thinking patterns’.
These are long-term feeling goals and as such this is an incremental journey. But a rewarding journey none the less.
And just because its not a quick fix, doesn’t mean it’s ‘unfixable’. Give yourself some time with your feeling goals.
The first step is to identify what you want your feelings goals to be about. What aspect of your feelings do you want to think about?
Different sorts of feelings goals
Do you want to:
It might be advisable not to take on too many feeling goals, so it may be you initially decide on one feelings goal and aim for that.
What can you do to think about and create feelings goals?
Here’s 7 ideas to get you started. You don’t have to do them all at once, some you will deliberately set out to do but others will come to mind at different times and situations.
1. Feelings diary
A good way to explore your feelings is to keep a ‘Feelings Diary’. In it you might jot down particular feelings you have, the strength of those feelings, what prompted you to those particular feelings, how you responded to them and indeed how you might respond to them more appropriately moving forward.
Or note down at key moments in the day, what your body is telling you about how you are feeling at that moment.
Through doing this you come to recognise underlying situations or themes to the way you feel on a day-to-day basis.
2. Change the way you talk about your feelings
Be personal in your conversation, rather than using generalised statements based on what you think you should feel, or even what you think others should feel. Instead of expressing yourself in terms of ‘you’, ‘one’ or ‘they’, make a connection with how you really feel, by using ‘I’. E.g. Right now, I am feeling…
In other words, speak for yourself not others.
3. Reflect on your feelings
We can only really understand what we’re feeling and the effect of those feelings on us, if we take the time to regularly reflect on our feelings.
Give yourself a moment in the day, perhaps before you drop off to sleep to have those thoughts.
4. Spend time with people who accept your emotions
We hopefully all have people in our lives that accept us for who we are, and with whom we can share our emotions and feelings.
Prioritise your time by spending it with the people who’re supportive of your emotions and with whom you can share your feelings.
5. Conversations around feelings
When I was younger, a friend and I used to have classifications of how we conversed with people. Essentially, conversations were divided into Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 type conversations.
Level 1 conversations – were small talk. The weather, the football scores, whatever and it surprising in life how often our conversations with key people in our lives essentially stay at this level – the level of small talk. We always have similar conversations and they do not stray onto unsafe territory – whatever that might mean.
To have more meaningful conversations, however, we have to switch up a level, to level 2.
Level 2 conversations – were typically more intellectual conversations. Conversations about religion, history, politics, view on women’s rights, to name but a few and here you get more of a sense of what a person is like and the commonality of your views with that person.
Level 2 conversations can be more heated, particularly if there is disagreement. But you certainly get an idea of what a person is like from these types of conversation – including if you are going to share or differ in your opinions. Once again, many conversations with people in life do not stray beyond level 1 and 2, but you probably feel you know people better who you have had level 2 type conversations with on a regular basis.
Certainly these level 2 conversations do reveal more about you, albeit on an intellectual level.
Level 3 type conversations are on another different level again - conversations of emotion and feelings. Here you reveal a lot more about yourself – personal stuff, stuff you might only reserve for your closest friends.
Rather than dive in and reveal everything about yourself – which can be a little overpowering - you might test an initial Level 3 type conversation with a person, by revealing a small intimacy or personal fact and seeing how the conversation went with that person – did they respond by revealing a little bit more personal stuff about themselves? Or did they keep on safer territory?
Although this might seem trivial, or just a bit of fun, in fact it is quite an interesting statement on the nature of our relationships.
Do you always conduct your life on the safer grounds?
If you believe that might be the case for you, try deliberately revealing a little more (shifting to Level 2 or Level 3 type conversation) when you’re next chatting with someone who you know quite well but have always had the same type of conversation with and just gently explore and observe the response.
In the lovely book The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery, there’s a lovely quote which says:
But I firmly believe it is a risk worth taking. Who knows it could be the start of a wonderful new deeper relationship?
6. Write an open letter
If you think you might have difficulty expressing your feelings person to person, another useful little technique is the open letter.
Write down in a letter to a friend, a partner or even yourself, what you’re feeling about something. And don’t worry, you don’t even have to send it (though you could if you feel able) – the act of writing it down will help to clarify the feeling and may help you realise what you want to achieve from expressing the feelings in writing.
7. Letting go
If you have difficulty expressing your feelings, try letting go a little more. Little by little, see how emotionally expressive you can be. View it, if it is easier, as an experiment – though the idea is to explore feelings rather than totally distance yourself from the process.
So there you have it. 7 ideas to get you started with feelings goals.
What next for your feelings?
Hear what we had to say about ‘Feelings Goals’ in Episode 68 of The Changeability Podcast – an award winning podcast dedicated to help you manage your mind to make changes in your life.
Or let us know what you thought about our 7 suggestions in the comments below.
Alternatively, leave us a voicemail by clicking the pink tab on the left hand side of this page and who knows, your voice may feature in a future episode of our podcast.
I’m rather feeling - you’re spoilt for choice!
Sat, 7 November 2015
It’s been a week where I’ve had to deal with “nothing more than feelings” in a very public way, speaking as I have at my father’s funeral. An event of this magnitude can bring up many feelings and I think it would be fair to say I’ve experienced the whole spectrum - feelings of sadness and grief but also gratitude and joy as we celebrated as well as mourned Dad’s life.
And yet amidst the on-going sadness Kathryn and I have also experienced other feelings like accomplishment when we recorded 8 videos in 2 days for our business and happiness and gratitude when Kathryn’s podcast, Podcast Divas hit the top of New & Noteworthy in iTunes in 4 categories. So it seems fitting therefore to think about the process of dealing with feelings.
Last week we asked what are feelings, what purpose do they serve, and how do you recognise and own your feelings? Now it’s all very well recognising you’re having them but when you’re in the presence of intense feelings, what do you do next?
Whilst it’s true you can’t always choose how you feel, you can choose how you respond to how you feel, and that’s what we’re talking about today, dealing with feelings.
So once you’ve recognised you’re feeling something there are a number of choices you can make with how you go about dealing with them. Here’s five ways.
5 ways of dealing with feelings
So how do you judge which will be the most useful in any particular setting?
A good rule of thumb is to consider what makes the circumstances better for you in this situation or ideally better for you and the other person(s). Or you can consider what makes the situation worse and avoid that. So ask yourself if you’re really feeling fed up with someone - would expressing my feelings make the situation better or worse?
And how do you balance those 5 choices?
A nice way to consider how to balance your feelings is to do the following for each of your five ways of ‘dealing with feelings’.
So taking the example of ‘Expressing your feelings’. Say to yourself?
Do I need to express my feelings more, or am I expressing my feelings about right or do I need to express my feelings less? You’ll know the answer if you listen to yourself.
Repeat this process for channelling your feelings, switching your feelings, controlling your feelings and reasoning your feelings and you’ll get an idea of how you predominantly deal with your feelings. You’ll also be aware of the other options you have and which ones you’re under using. In the end the skill of dealing with feelings is probably about balancing those 5 ways, rather than defaulting to one in particular.
Tell us how you deal with feelings
Tell us how you deal with your feelings by leaving us a voicemail using our new voicemail service – it’s a pink ‘Send us a voicemail’ tab found on any page. And who knows we may feature your voice on our podcast. We’d really like to share your collective knowledge of these matters. Or you can leave us a comment below. If you feel like it of course! And talking of podcasts…
In episode 67 of the Changeability Podcast
Hear us discuss all the above, plus: