For the past few weeks we have been thinking about criticism. We noted that one reason that criticism is hard to bear for many of us is because of the way many people often provide criticism. Because it is often provided with shouting, glares, name calling and threats it is understandable that you might start to get defensive as soon as you begin to hear someone criticizing you. But these negative actions don’t have to be part of negative criticism.
People who are masters at dealing with criticism are confident that they are fully prepared to carry out a plan that can effectively deal with insults. Moreover, they are confident that they can carry out the plan in a manner that will enhance their reputation and protect their personal freedom.
This plan can take a variety of forms. What might feel right for one person might not feel right to another. And so, here I will propose a plan that is just a starting point for your consideration.
When you are being criticized in a manner that you don’t like, this is NOT the time to criticize the criticizer’s style. The first thing to do is to model for the criticizer a high level of maturity in responding to criticism. Here’s what that might look like:
Listen to the criticizer in a supportive, warm, friendly style. Then make it clear that you fully understand what was said. This means that you summarize what you heard and ask if your summary is accurate. Then spend some time showing that you are thinking about the criticism by pausing, perhaps rubbing your chin and asking a question or two to clarify the criticizer’s position. If, after thinking about the criticism, the criticism is deemed to be correct, make a statement that frankly indicates the ideas have merit and you intend to use them in the future. If you are not sure if you agree, make a statement indicating that you are very interested in what was said, you plan to think a little more about this over the next few days and then you’ll be ready to discuss this further. If after thinking about the criticism you feel the criticism is incorrect, make a statement designed to disagree without being disagreeable. More specifically, a sense of humor, some listening in a caring way and a few smiles help to traverse rough terrain. As the episode winds down, encouraged the criticizer to feel comfortable communicating suggestions in the future.
Now that you have modeled how to respond to criticism in a mature manner, wait until the insulter has had some time to calm down. Then you can negotiate from a position of strength. Begin by first asking yourself what you didn’t like about how you had been treated and how you wish to be treated in the future if a similar set of circumstances should arise. Then consider having the following discussion with the criticizer:
Once you made your position clear, listen to the reply in a caring way. Some of the reply might be negative criticism of the approach that you are advocating. Respond in a way that matches the response to negative criticism that I described above.
You now have had an opportunity to look over this plan. Over the course of the following week, if you will, think about what you like about this plan, what doesn’t feel right to you, and how you would change it.
Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.