Want to receive a great gift? If you can imagine a gift as an item that’s not tangible, not store bought, not gift wrapped, yet is something special that’s been given to you, then I have the gift for you.
I can teach you how to hear other people’s criticism in a manner that will make you feel empowered, not attacked. So empowered, in fact, that you will have no need to become deflated, defensive, enraged, victimized or attack back.
“Are you kidding?” I hear you say. “No pre-frontal lobotomy for me!”
Lucky for you I never did finish the course on, “Brain Surgery for Dummies.”
“Well then,” you might reply, “how can you expect me not to be hurt or angry when I’m criticized — especially if the criticism is unfair, designed to control me or make me feel guilty?”
Yes, I know. It would be nice if nobody ever criticized you.
- If you’re a sensitive soul, you just don’t like it.
- If you’re a strong-willed soul, you want to do things your own way, others be damned.
- If you come from an abusive home, you’ve heard enough criticism to last you a lifetime.
But welcome to the real world, where we do receive criticism, like it or not. And that’s not always a bad thing. If we shut ourselves off from what we don’t want to hear, we make it more likely that problems will snowball and irritations will erupt into irreparable resentments.
The gift I am about to offer you is not easy to acquire — especially when the criticism is harsh, habitual or undeserved. And it takes work and time to put into practice. But you’ve got to begin sometime. Why not right now?
First, to cope well with criticism, you must take a moment to calm yourself. You need time to reflect on what has been said, instead of being steamrolled into silence or provoked into pummeling your criticizer. You must make sure the rational part of your brain is in charge, not the reptilian part that will strike out at your enemy without thought of consequences.
You have a choice. You are not a victim here — unless you make yourself one. Once you’re in a relatively calm state, ask yourself these questions:
- What part of the criticism do I agree with? (Yup, I was a bit selfish.)
- What part of the criticism do I disagree with? (I’m not always selfish.)
- Can I reframe the criticism? (It’s not that I only care about myself; it’s just that I wasn’t focused on you at the moment.)
Now that you’re clear about the validity of the criticism, you can:
- Remove the sting of the criticism by adding the word “sometimes.” (Sometimes I don’t think of you.)
- Put the criticism in perspective. (I know I could be more sensitive to your feelings but it was never my intention to hurt you.)
Okay, you get the idea.
- You can be hurt or angry, but you don’t have to put those feelings front and center.
- You can filter out the punitive part of the criticism while absorbing its useful part.
- You can change a massive assault on your personality into a simple critique of what you did or didn’t do.
- You can be criticized cruelly, yet respond with empathy. It’s a losing strategy to let others drag you down to their level, when they play the ‘blame and shame’ game.
I hope you will embrace my gift and relish its benefits. Being able to cope constructively with criticism without losing your cool or confidence is a hallmark of maturity.